"The theory is that drug companies hand out samples because it gets physicians in the habit of using a drug and physicians, therefore, are more likely to prescribe that drug later," Miller said.
Many times, initially, a patient will be given a sample of a drug to test tolerability and effectiveness. Often times, when a physician gives a patient a sample, it is accompanied with a prescription to fill after the sample is gone. Sometimes free samples are used by physicians to help patients who cannot afford medications. But the availability of drug samples is not always predictable and, when patients return for refills and the samples they need are missing from a practice, either because the drug representative didn't leave enough or stopped distributing them altogether, patients who were started on brand name drugs in sample form are left paying the price when they have to fill a prescription.
Researchers were surprised to find that, throughout the study, Medicaid patients were generally prescribed generic drugs, even with the availability of branded samples. Surprising, Miller said, because at the time of the study, Medicaid didn't have a formulary, so all drugs for Medicaid patients, branded or generic, were only $1.
One possible explanation, Miller said, is that because Medicaid patients rarely receive samples, doctors' prescribing decisions for these patients were based purely on what drug they thought was best and not on what samples happened to be available in the closet.
"In terms of safety and effectiveness, doctors have the most information about older drugs because they have been used for years and are often more studied," Miller said. "Sometimes, doctors don't discover that a new drug has serious side-effects until it has been used in a large number of peop
|Contact: Jessica Guenzel|
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center