The New York Times:
August 9, 2005
Patterns: Under the Influence of Drug Samples?
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Those cabinets in medical offices stuffed with promotional drug samples may lead doctors to prescribe more expensive drugs, even to patients who cannot afford them, a new study finds.
Writing in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine, researchers say medical residents who have access to the samples are more likely to write prescriptions for heavily advertised drugs than for less expensive brands, generic versions or even over-the-counter medicines.
The study, conducted by Dr. Richard F. Adair of the University of Minnesota and Dr. Leah R. Holmgren of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, looked at the prescribing patterns of 29 internal medicine residents over six months in an inner-city primary care clinic.
The study, the researchers said, contradicts the argument made by many doctors that the samples do not influence them. It also undercuts the suggestion that the samples save patients money.
"Although samples may provide short-term economic benefit for some patients," the authors write, "their primary purpose is to market new and expensive drugs."
The study found that the doctors who were allowed access to the samples were more likely to prescribe expensive versions of the drugs. If the samples were really influencing them, the authors said, it would appear to violate national guidelines on the relationship between drug companies and doctors.
The study cited earlier research that showed, among other things, that when samples were removed from clinics, doctors were more likely to prescribe drugs recommended by medical authorities. After the samples run out, some research has found, doctors write prescriptions for that brand instead of switching to drugs that they would have otherwise preferred.
PD-Rx also provides a pharmaceutical sampling program designed to reduce MCO's pharmaceutical costs and enhance patient satisfaction, This program allows medical professionals the ability to provide prefilled prescriptions to patients free of charge or for a small co-pay.