Free Drug Samples May Harm Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

Study has found that free prescription drug samples pose health risk to children because they are not yet properly checked for safety.

A joint team of researchers from Cambridge Health Alliance and Hasbro Children's Hospital analysed data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data comes from a survey conducted in 2004 questioning children under 18 about where they get their healthcare from. The children were also asked if they have received free drug samples.


Survey data showed that 500000 children received free drug samples that were later associated with serious health complications. Among such drugs researchers mention Elidel for eczema treatment which was given to 38000 children younger than 2. Later the drug was suspected by FDA in causing skin cancer and it got a serious label warning saying that the drugs should not be prescribed to children under 2. Among other free drugs researchers found wide use of Advair for asthma treatment, Adderall and Strattera for attention deficit disorder treatment.

Researchers also reported that most of the free drug samples are given for newly introduced drugs, which are not yet properly tested for side effects. Besides, most of the drug samples did not carry proper labeling about doses, age of patients it should be prescribed to and possible side effects.

Analysis also found that children without health insurance coverage are more likely to receive a prescription on a free drug sample, but at the same time these children are less likely to visit a doctor than their covered peers. Overall, children with or without health insurance are equally likely to receive free drug samples.

Researchers urge that the free prescription drug samples are a good marketing, advertising tool for drug manufacturers, rather than help for children. Children suffer from newly introduced drugs' side effects and the practice of free drug samples should be stopped. However, drug industry giants state that these samples provided uninsured children with drugs they could not receive otherwise.


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