Doctors Agree, Drug Samples are Essential for Lower Income Patients

Doctors and Health Professionals agree that drug samples are essential for low income patients who cannot afford prescription drugs on their own.

Many doctors see the value of providing a drug sample to a patient for both health and economical reasons. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices published an alert on medication samples which states, “A physician may give you samples of a particular medication at the time of your office or clinic visit. Typically, this may [be] done at the start of a new prescription so the physician can see if the medication is effective for your condition and is well tolerated before you purchase a large amount. This is a reasonable idea, particularly if it saves you from having medications available that you can no longer use.

The Eye For Pharma Blog posted an entry a couple years ago about the a study conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The survey asked 217 US obstetricians and gynecologists about the practice of giving patients drug samples. The survey found that 92% said getting samples was ethically acceptable, however a third acknowledged at the handouts might influence their drug choice. The study claimed that drug samples are the fastest-growing form of marketing by drug companies. This may be true, but some patients depend on these free samples because they can’t afford to buy a full prescription of a drug that they don’t know will work. The author of the blog agrees, concluding, “Drug samples are just the latest focus in the ongoing scrutiny of the industry’s marketing practices. Pharma’s need to anticipate that marketing reform advocates will eventually get their way and have the practice of providing doctors and patients with free samples prohibited. The shame is that although the industry will adapt and find other ways to get its product messages out to physicians, patients in financial need will lose one more avenue to access the drugs they need in a system that increasingly fails to meet their needs.

Anne Zieger wrote an article for Fierce Healthcare on the proposed ban of drug samples at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The hospital even suggested suspending the admitting privileges of physicians who break the rules if one was to be enacted. Zieger argues that taking away drug samples could hurt lower income patients would can’t afford the medication. She writes, “It doesn’t seem fair to penalize the poor and struggling middle-income patients who can’t afford co-pays just on principle. As a consumer, I’m all for knowing physicians are unbiased, but the reality is that samples bring some pretty effective drugs to patients who wouldn’t be able to get them otherwise…