Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Providing Free Drug Samples To Patients Risks Harm To Public Health, Experts Argue

Date:
May 12, 2009
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
The tradition of American physicians handing out free drug samples to their patients "has many serious disadvantages and is as anachronistic as bloodletting and high colonic irrigations," say two experts.

The tradition of American physicians handing out free drug samples to their patients "has many serious disadvantages and is as anachronistic as bloodletting and high colonic irrigations," say two academics in an essay in PLoS Medicine.

Susan Chimonas, a researcher at the Center on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, New York City, USA, and Jerome Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a distinguished professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA, argue that giving "free" samples is "not effective in improving drug access for the indigent, does not promote rational drug use, and raises the cost of care."

Although the pharmaceutical industry has claimed that providing free samples helps financially struggling patients, Chimonas and Kassirer cite research showing that low-income uninsured patients are in fact less likely to receive free samples than patients with continuous insurance. Many samples, they say, "are appropriated by physicians for personal or family use," and in one study nearly half of pharmaceutical sales representatives surveyed reported using samples themselves or giving them to their friends and relatives. These studies, say Chimonas and Kassirer, indicate that samples often reach the wrong people and are frequently misused.

Samples are also ineffective, they say, at lowering patient costs. "Indeed, evidence shows that patients who received free samples had higher out-of-pocket costs than their counterparts who were not given free samples." Samples raise the cost of health care, as companies recoup marketing costs through higher prices and increased sales volume.

In addition, giving free samples risks poor quality of health care. For example, when low-income patients are given a ''starter pack'' of samples and a prescription to fill for the remaining period of treatment, they might not be able to afford the cost of the extension, leading to discontinuity of treatment. In doctors' offices, detailed patient education regarding sample use rarely occurs, and when it does, it usually lacks information about drug interactions or instructions on how the drug should be taken. And given the lack of oversight of samples by a skilled pharmacist, there is a risk that expiration dates could be overlooked.

"It is difficult to escape the conclusion," say the authors, "that the prime motivation behind the provision of free samples is marketing." Samples have a major influence on physicians' prescribing habits, they say, and are one of the most effective ways sales representatives get their foot in the door to pitch their companies' products. The authors call for the medical profession to halt the practice of accepting samples from the pharmaceutical industry and distributing them to patients.

This work was supported by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Prescription Project. The funders had no role in the decision to submit this manuscript or in its preparation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chimonas et al. No More Free Drug Samples? PLoS Medicine, 2009; 6 (5): e1000074 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000074

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Providing Free Drug Samples To Patients Risks Harm To Public Health, Experts Argue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511210415.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2009, May 12). Providing Free Drug Samples To Patients Risks Harm To Public Health, Experts Argue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511210415.htm
Public Library of Science. "Providing Free Drug Samples To Patients Risks Harm To Public Health, Experts Argue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090511210415.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

AFP (Sep. 15, 2014) The European Commission met on Monday to coordinate aid that the EU can offer to African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) A new study finds children are prescribed antibiotics twice as often as is necessary. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins