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Health Services Research & Development

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HSR&D Citation Abstract

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Carico RL, Emmendorfer TR, Aspinall SL, Mizah MT, Good CB. Review of purchases of unapproved medications by the Veterans Health Administration. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. 2019 Nov 13; 76(23):1934-1943.
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Abstract: PURPOSE: Many medications that were marketed prior to 1962 but lack Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval are prescribed in the United States. Usage patterns of these "unapproved medications" are poorly elucidated, which is concerning due to potential lack of data on safety and efficacy. The purpose of this project was to characterize purchases of unapproved medications within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) by type, frequency, and cost. METHODS: VHA purchasing databases were used to create a list of all products with National Drug Codes (NDCs) purchased nationwide in fiscal year 2016 (FY16). This list was compared to FDA databases to identify unapproved prescription medications. For each identified combination of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and route of administration ("API/route combination"), numbers of packages purchased and associated costs were added. RESULTS: VHA pharmacy purchasing records contained 3,299 unapproved products with NDCs in FY16. After excluding equipment, nutrition products, compounding ingredients, nonmedication products, and duplicate NDCs, there were 600 unique NDCs associated with 130 distinct API/route combinations. The most commonly acquired product was prescription sodium fluoride dental paste (350,775 packages). The greatest pharmaceutical expenditure was for sodium hyaluronate injection ($24.5 million). Unapproved products accounted for less than 1% of overall VHA pharmacy purchasing in FY16. CONCLUSION: VHA purchased many unapproved prescription products in FY16 but is taking action to address use of such products in consideration of safety and efficacy data and available alternatives.

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