DATA SOURCES: The articles published in PubMed, MEDLINE and Google Scholar were searched using text words: off-label, unlicensed, paediatric and children. Additional articles were identified by reviewing the bibliography of the retrieved articles. Full-text articles published in English which reported on the prevalence of off-label prescribing in children between January 1996 and December 2016 were included.
RESULTS: A total of 101 studies met the inclusion criteria. Off-label prescribing definition included four main categories: age, indication, dose and route of administration. The three most common reference sources used in the studies were summary of product characteristics, national formularies and package inserts. Overall, the off-label prescribing rates in children ranged from 1.2 to 99.7%. The most common category of off-label prescribing in children was dose and age.
CONCLUSIONS: This review highlighted that off-label prescribing in children was found to be highly prevalent throughout the past two decades, persistently in the neonatal intensive care units. This suggests that besides legislative and regulatory initiatives, behavioural, knowledge aspects and efforts to integrate evidence into practice related to off-label prescribing also need to be evaluated and consolidated as part of the concerted efforts to narrow the gaps in prescribing for children.