Pharmaceutical companies love to give out free samples. It is their way of hooking you on their drugs. The pharmaceutical reps go to a doctor’s office; they explain what the latest and greatest prescription drugs are and provide samples for patients to try. Doctors gladly give away the free samples but there is a catch if the medication works. You will be paying top dollar on that prescription refill for the prescription drug. Free prescription drugs cost more.
No More Samples
Recently, a hospital group in Wisconsin has stopped the practice of free drug samples. Around the country health care organizations have or are in the process of phasing out free samples to patients, as well as curbing visits by drug and medical equipment salesmen to doctors. The biggest factor is cost to both the patient and the organization.
Samples drive demand for higher-priced, name-brand medications, although they might not be the best prescription for the situation. Many times, established and often generic medicines would be enough for most people. The pharmaceutical companies argue access to doctors and samples increases patient care. Samples also serve an important function since they provide immediate feedback on if a medicine works or has side effects. The idea for prescriptions should be based on which drugs best fit the situation, not which are most promoted.
New Sample System
The samples aren’t going away, they are being replaced by vouchers or getting patients into cost-assistance programs. Vouchers are easier to maintain since they generally don’t expire or disappear. A prescription is still needed to complete the voucher. Hospital staffs are charged with checking samples to ensure they aren’t expired. When samples expire, health care providers have to pay to get rid of them, which is an additional cost in both waste management and employees doing inventory control. Having vouchers is like having notepads and can be placed in a filing cabinet.
Now add to the fact that visits by sales rep are being limited based on appointments and doctors now have more time. With the internet, information is available in many different forms of media so providers can learn about new products and medications. Part of this push is because of a provision of the new Affordable Care Act, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. The act says health care organizations must reveal anything of value given to physicians by reps but samples are excluded. The idea was to ensure that no organization looks influenced by sales personnel, which is their job.
The root of the problem is that many drugs are becoming unaffordable. Health care organizations, historically, have done a poor job of getting patients into cost-assistance programs. The hope is with the new rules, patients will get the best treatment at the lowest cost possible.
Have you ever used the free sample medication?