When the Food and Drug Administration gives its OK for a new drug to be sold, it specifies the diseases or conditions for which the medicine has been approved. That does not mean doctors can’t prescribe that drug for other ailments. They do. All the time. And it’s perfectly legal.

But for decades drugmakers have been barred from promoting their drugs for uses that hadn’t gone through clinical trials. Worried about safety issues, the FDA has prosecuted numerous drugmakers for illegal promotion of off-label uses and extracted billions of dollars in fines and settlements.

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