The role of perceived impact on relationship quality in pharmacists' willingness to influence indication-based off-label prescribing decisions

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Little is known about factors that affect pharmacists' roles in off-label prescribing. This study examined the effect of perceived impact on relationship quality (IRQ) on hospital pharmacists' willingness to influence a physician's decision regarding an indication-based off-label medication order (WTIP) (i.e., beyond FDA-approved indications) and the moderating roles of the appropriateness of the medication order and the relative expert power of the pharmacist.

Pharmacists practicing in U.S. hospitals, recruited from membership rolls of state affiliates of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, were sent an electronic link to a questionnaire via their respective affiliates. A cross-sectional, randomized, 2 × 2 experimental design was used; participants were assigned to one of the indication-based off-label medication order scenarios. Relative expert power (i.e., power differential between the pharmacist and the physician) and appropriateness of the prescription were manipulated. Perceived IRQ was measured with multiple items. Pharmacists' WTIP in the scenario was the outcome variable.

A total of 243 responses were included in multiple linear regression analyses. After controlling for dependence power, information power, communication effectiveness, perceived responsibility, and attitude, pharmacists' WTIP was negatively affected by perceived IRQ (estimate = −0.309, P < 0.05). This effect was more pronounced in groups exposed to the scenario where the pharmacist had lower relative expert power (estimate = −0.438, P < 0.05) and where the medication was less appropriate (estimate = −0.503, P < 0.05).

Although willing to ensure rationality of off-label prescribing, pharmacists' WTIP was affected by a complex array of factors – the perceived impact of influence attempts on relationship quality between the pharmacist and the prescriber, the pharmacist's relative expert power, and the appropriateness of the off-label prescription. Increasing pharmacists' expert power and collaboration with physicians and promoting pharmacists' multifaceted contribution, collaborative or independent, to patient care may facilitate pharmacist services in off-label pharmaceutical care.


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