Date of Original Version
People have a love/hate relationship with rapidly changing healthcare technology. While consumer demand for medical apps continues to grow as rapidly as does supply (there are over 100,000 health, wellness and medical applications, or ‘apps’ on the market), healthcare professionals and safety experts worry about the impact of these apps on the health consumer. In response to the rapidly growing mobile healthcare sector, the Food and Drug Administration has put forth guidelines to regulate ‘mobile medical apps’ (MMAs), those health-related apps that are (self) designated as medical devices. In this article, I argue that this decision, to only regulate apps that bill themselves as medical devices, will create a market for ‘off-label’ app use. Further, I will talk about the oft used analogy between off-label apps and off-label pharmaceuticals, showing that off-labeling apps will provide patients none of the benefits that come with a physician prescribing a drug off-label, while exposing the mobile healthcare consumer to significant risks that go significantly beyond those that we know of (and must accept) from prescription drugs. Recognizing that the Food and Drug Administration is not going to be able to significantly change its policies on oversight, I will suggest specific actions to at least mitigate some of the risks associated with off-label app use.
Krieger, William H. “When Are Medical Apps Medical? Off-Label Use and the Food and Drug Administration.” DIGITAL HEALTH, Jan. 2016, doi:10.1177/2055207616662782.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2055207616662782
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