Do You Like Free Drug Samples Given By The Doctors? Think Again

By , April 18th, 2014 | Health | 9 Comments

A new research done by researchers from Stanford University and published April 16 in the journal JAMA Dermatology, found that free samples given by the doctors to patients as ‘prescription drugs’ though looks like a good deal is actually benefiting only the drug manufacturers.
A group of researchers took a close look at the data on prescriptions for adult acne medications written in 2010 by dermatologists across the United States. Dermatologists love the idea of giving out free samples and the data show that over 80% of the prescriptions written in 2010 came from free sample. This is a drastic increase from 12% reported in the year 2001.

In fact, specifically in adult acne patients 25% of prescriptions came from samples in the year 2010 which was only 10% in 2001.

“Many physicians believe that free samples have both benefits and drawbacks,” study first author Michael Hurley, a Stanford medical student, said in the news release.

But even when doctors think they’re doing patients a favor by handing out the freebies, critics said there can be a downside. It encourages doctors to prescribe drugs that are more expensive and potentially less safe than the work-horse generics that are just as effective.

Moreover researchers found that, for a single visit, the average retail cost of prescriptions for patients whose doctors received free samples from drug makers was about $465, compared with about $200 for patients whose doctors did not receive free samples.

The research further showed that Retin-A Micro, Differin, Benzaclin and Duac were the 4 highly prescribed acne drugs, with a free sample and without samples, by most of the dermatologists in United States.

Study senior author Dr. Alfred Lane, emeritus professor of dermatology and of pediatrics at Stanford University, said in a university news release: “Physicians may not be aware of the cost difference between brand-name and generic drugs, and patients may not realize that, by accepting samples, they could be unintentionally channeled into subsequently receiving a prescription for a more expensive medication.”

  • Charles

    Some of those people do not have insurance ,so it does help ,some have large copay

  • Jennifer Jonsson

    If the samples are given out with the idea that the patient should try it and see how it works, then it makes perfect sense and may even save the patient money (free sample vs. 30-day supply of something that ends up being unsatisfactory for whatever reason.)

  • Glen McMillian


    Doctors know what the drugs they prescribe often cost.

    And patients are free to ask for substitutes and generics.

    Having said this much there are certainly patients with tons of money and others with insurance who don’t care what a prescription costs.

    Doctors are often accused- with good cause- of pushing certain drugs and treatments for unethical reasons such as the set of premium golf clubs they got from the pharmaceuticals sales rep.

    My doctor prescribes almost all generics because he says the generics work as well as the stuff still on patent almost every time . There are exceptions to this rule of course but not very many.

  • Jody

    Tiffany, I’m sure you’re a great person, but are you honestly suggesting to us that DOCTORS don’t know about generic drugs? I mean, I first heard of them when i was like, 14. Plus, pretty much every person in America knows they’re out there & any state-funded program (think MA & Medicare) actually REQUIRE pharmacists to fill generics over the name brand. Really now, let’s get with the program & stop making up problems that COULD happen (but won’t). There are enough real ones to write or worry about.

  • [email protected]

    My Dr tries to give me free samples for stuff i already take. I tell him- I have RX coverage-Give these things to someone uncovered who really needs them. He still tries to push them on me.

    • badphairy

      They expire. Better to have them used than throw them away.

      • [email protected]

        That’s true but the dates are not realistic-i have used pills over 5 years past expiration and they worked fine. You might get 10-20 years if they were never opened.

  • Jeff Noel

    Advair isn’t cheap, and there is no generic. It is the most widely prescribed med for chronic asthma. I have no qualms leaving my allergist with a goodie bag of things I already take.

  • UncleJohn

    Wait a minute – are you saying that free give aways in stores are intended to get me to buy stuff? OMG!

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