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Free drug samples may end up costing uninsured more
Date:9/4/2008

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Free drug samples provided to physicians by pharmaceutical companies could actually be costing uninsured patients more in the long run, according to a study done by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues.

The retrospective study looked at the prescribing habits of more than 70 physicians in a university-affiliated internal medicine practice in the months immediately before and after the closing of their drug sample closet. The results indicate that the availability of free samples from pharmaceutical companies greatly impacts whether an uninsured patient is given a prescription for a generic or a brand-name drug. The complete findings can be found in the September issue of Southern Medical Journal.

"It's true that samples can save patients money in the short-run," said David P. Miller, M.D., lead researcher and internal medicine physician at Wake Forest Baptist. "But our study shows that they may end up paying more in the long run when they are given prescriptions for brand-name only drugs."

For the study, researchers used a pharmacy database to track all of the prescriptions in four classes of chronic medications given to uninsured and Medicaid patients. Nearly 2,000 prescriptions categorized as antihypertensives (blood pressure medications), oral diabetic agents, peptic ulcer and gastroesophageal reflux medications, and non-narcotic pain medications, were tracked for the nine months leading up to and following the relocation of the practice, at which time the drug sample closet was permanently closed due to a lack of suitable storage space in the new building.

Researchers found that, for uninsured patients, the percentage of medications prescribed as generics rose from 12 percent to 30 percent after the clinic closed its drug sample closet. For Medicaid patients, however, there was no significant change in generic prescribing.

Drug samples are avail
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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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