Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Free prescription drug samples - good idea or bad idea?

From today's New York Times article:

The crackdown on free samples comes amid growing concern about the close ties between physicians and drug companies. Critics like Dr. Rothman say physicians don’t realize the extent to which their medical judgment is influenced by their acceptance of the samples. They point to studies like a 2002 paper in the journal Annals of Family Medicine finding that the number of doctors who treated high blood pressure with the “first line” drugs recommended by national guidelines was low, but increased sharply when free samples were removed.

So far, the University of Michigan Health System has banned free samples altogether, and the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University medical schools have prohibited staff members from accepting them (though samples can be given to Stanford’s pharmacy for use in free clinics).
But there’s an upside to the samples. Using samples, a doctor can see if a patient can tolerate a new medication before the patient goes out and buys a 30-day supply. Physicians who treat poor people like to have samples on hand for them, and for uninsured patients.
Click here to read the entire article.

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