Pharmaceutical drug samples may come with a high price

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Apr 21 2014 - 4:08pm
Prescription drugs

A new study from Stanford University reveals that pharmaceutical drug samples may come with a high cost to patients. The research, published in JAMA Dermatology, points out that doctors who have access to free samples are more likely to prescribe more expensive medications to their patients. The pharmaceutical industry is considered to be one of the most profitable industries in the United States, and patient complaints about the high price of drugs continue to be an issue.

How free samples cost patients

Most doctors and patients welcome free samples from pharmaceutical companies because they offer a way for people to try new medications without the risk of paying for a full prescription. However, there is a hidden issue that is happening that has consequences for patients. Doctors who receive free samples are less likely to prescribe generic drugs, and this quickly adds up to a costly problem. The study found that their prescriptions were twice as expensive as the ones written by doctors without access to free samples.

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Researchers think doctors do not take enough time to consider the price of medications before writing a prescription. Instead, they give out the free samples and later prescribe the same drugs because it appears to work well. However, there may be cheaper, generic versions of the drug that can save patients money that are not being considered.

How to handle the free sample trend

Researchers are not suggesting that doctors stop accepting or giving free samples because this will not fix the problem. The pharmaceutical industry spends $16 billion a year on free samples, and it is a popular method to introduce new drugs to medical professionals. However, there are ways for patients to handle the situation while benefiting from the free samples.

Patients should always inquire about the cost of a medication before a prescription is written, and it is important to question medical staff about the necessity of the drugs. In addition, patients need to ask if generic versions are available because doctors may not propose this option on their own. Education is a powerful tool in these cases, so it is crucial to learn more about any medication that may be prescribed.

Image: LadyofProcrastination/Wikimedia Commons

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