Content Analysis of Off-label Drug Use: Reporting Print Media Coverage



Assess the newspaper coverage of off-label drug use from the years 1990 to 2010.


News articles from the top six selling national newspapers were studied. Variables of interest were the number of articles published, article themes, headline and content tone, concerns and benefits discussed with offlabel use, drugs discussed, and primary indi-viduals interviewed for the article.


The number of articles published on off-label drug and device use steadily increased over the period of the study. The key themes discussed in these articles were concerns over safety and effcacy (45.8%) and benefits of off-label prescribing (25.9%). The overall tone of the articles was often negative toward offlabel use (40.4% of articles).


Overall, the tone and coverage of off-label medication and device usage was more negative than positive, focusing more on concerns than on benefits. Nevertheless, there did not appear to be any impartial or systematic media bias against the practice.

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Author information

Correspondence to David A. Holdford RPh, MS, PhD, FAPhA.

Additional information

The authors report no relevant relationships to disclose.

Graduate student at time of research.

The authors report no relevant relationships to disclose.

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Patel, D.A., Joshi, A.D., Holdford, D.A. et al. Content Analysis of Off-label Drug Use: Reporting Print Media Coverage. Ther Innov Regul Sci 45, 787–796 (2011) doi:10.1177/009286151104500515

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Key Words

  • Content analysis
  • Off-label drug use
  • Unapproved drug use
  • Off-label prescribing
  • News media