Information for the public about medicines

Evidence summaries provide an overview of the best evidence that is available about specific medicines. They also give general information about the condition that the medicine might be prescribed for, how the medicine is used, how it works, and what the aim of treatment is.

Evidence summaries aim to help healthcare professionals and patients decide whether medicines are safe to use and if they are likely to work well, especially when there isn't another suitable medicine that has a licence for the condition. They don't contain recommendations from NICE on whether the medicine should be used.

Information about licensing of medicines

In the UK, medicines need to have a licence before they can be widely used. To get a licence, the manufacturer of the medicine has to provide evidence that shows that the medicine works well enough and is safe enough to be used for a specific condition and for a specific group of patients, and that they can manufacture the medicine to the required quality. Evidence summaries explain whether a medicine has a licence, and if it does what the licence covers.

There is more information about licensing of medicines on NHS Choices.

Medicines can be prescribed if they don't have a licence (unlicensed) or for 'off-label' use. Off-label means that the person prescribing the medicine wants to use it in a different way than that stated in its licence. This could mean using the medicine for a different condition or a different group of patients, or it could mean a change in the dose or that the medicine is taken in a different way. If a healthcare professional wants to prescribe an unlicensed medicine, or a licensed medicine off-label, they must follow their professional guide, for example for doctors the General Medical Council's good practice guidelines. These include giving information about the treatment and discussing the possible benefits and harms so that the person has enough information to decide whether or not to have the treatment. This is called giving informed consent.

Questions that might be useful to ask about medicines

  • Why am I being offered this medicine?

  • Why am I being offered a medicine that is unlicensed or is being used off-label?

  • What does the treatment involve?

  • What are the benefits I might get?

  • How good are my chances of getting those benefits?

  • Could having the treatment make me feel worse?

  • Are there other treatments I could try?

  • What are the risks of the treatment?

  • Are the risks minor or serious? How likely are they to happen?

  • What could happen if I don't have the treatment?