Hospitals should cut down off-label use of hemophilia drug

Researchers caution against off-label prescribing of the $10,000-per-dose hemophilia medication NovoSeven. Their reasoning: It rarely saves lives and may actually cause clotting problems and strokes in some patients.

"We found no evidence to suggest that the drug saves lives for any of the patient scenarios or conditions that we evaluated," study co-author Veronica Yank, also a fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center, says in the report.

The most shocking finding: NovoSeven is being used off-label 97 percent of the time. And it's employed in a surprisingly broad list of situations, including intracranial hemorrhage, trauma, cardiac surgery, liver transplants and prostate removal surgery, researchers note.

Some in the healthcare industry have raised questions about how the drug gained such wide off-label use, according to an article in the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) magazine Science. The piece reveals that an investigation of possible "improper financial arrangements" between Novo Nordisk and the U.S. Army is underway at the Department of Defense right now. Novo Nordisk has denied any impropriety, the story reports.

The study team at Stanford University School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center just published their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine yesterday. It's a retrospective analysis of more than 64 studies on 6,000 relevant articles on the drug from 2000 to 2008, funded by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Note: The report was clear that it found nothing unusual in the drug's use for hemophilia patients.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- check out the coverage in AAAS's Science magazine
- dig into the report in the Annals of Internal Medicine (.pdf)