Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Changing Rx Practices in the Treatment of Mental Illness: Impact on Forensic Evidence

"Off-label" prescription practices are increasingly used in the treatment of symptoms related to mental illness. In support of this conclusion, evidence is reviewed on the antidepressant treatment of numerous non-depressive disorders and on the antipsychotic drug treatment of non-psychotic disorders. The impact of this evidence is discussed in light of the Daubert decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is concluded that such practices challenge the application of the decision and increase the potential for testimonial error. Finally, a promising trend of identifying drugs by their neurochemical action is briefly discussed.

One trend that has revolutionized the face of Clinical Psychopharmacology is a breakdown in the disorder-specific nature of drug treatment (i.e., the use of antidepressant drugs to treat depression, antipsychotic drugs to treat psychosis, etc.). This "off-label" prescription practice has resulted in a clear broadening of the range of possible psychological symptoms that can be positively influenced by a specific class of drugs. The purpose of this article is to present examples of this practice in the published literature and suggest how this trend has impacted forensic considerations in the area of Clinical Psychopharmacology. Although no attempt has been made to exhaust coverage of this trend, an attempt has been made to present examples representative of different classes of drugs.


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