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To find out if you're taking a drug for an unapproved or "off-label" purpose, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Or you can read the drug's Food and Drug Administration-approved prescribing information, called its label. A copy is available from your pharmacist, or you can look it up on the Web or at the library in the Physicians' Desk Reference.
Be prepared to wade through tiny type and medical jargon. But you can learn a lot by focusing on a few sections:
Indications and usage: What the drug is approved to treat.
Contraindications: When the drug should not be used.
Warnings and precautions: Just what it sounds like - serious issues for people taking the drug. Warnings emphasized with a black box around them are the most serious of those the FDA issues.
Adverse reactions: Information about side effects, often with details about what percentage of patients experience them.
Drug interactions: Explains what other medicines may cause problems if taken with the drug.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
(C) 2003 Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.. All Rights Reserved