Consumer Reports Health says: Getting free samples of prescription drugs from your doctor might sound like a great deal, but they can end up costing you more in the long run. Manufacturers typically use free samples to promote the newest, least-tested drugs. Such gifts might lead doctors to prescribe them when other drugs might be better. [Consumer Reports Health]


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  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Free samples are awesome – as long as you and your doctor have spoken about the options before he/she hands you the free samples.

    You should never be able to walk in and say “I have problem X, what should I do?” and when medication comes up, the doctor hands you free samples as if they are your only option. Certainly for every condition there are at least two drugs that may help. In no circumstance should a person’s first visit result in medication without first discussing the options.

    • catnapped says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: That or walk in and say “I saw this on teevee and think I need it–can I have some?”

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I agree. I’ve had doctors who basically looked into the Big Box O’ Samples before deciding what to give me. Now I have one that first decides what meds will help, then decides how much to give my anti-allopathic ass, *then* checks whether or not she has any samples.

      In my experience, I’ve known more GPs and RNPs that gave me samples without really discussing it with me than I have psychiatrists. Not saying it’s across the board, but man, were some of those doctors Zoloft-happy.

  2. samurailynn says:

    The only time I’ve ever received free samples is when the doctor is like “oh, here, you only need to take this for a few days so take these free samples instead of going to get a prescription filled.”

    • Jabes says:

      @samurailynn: Especially good for those really expensive antibiotics. When I didn’t have prescription insurance coverage, I would always ask my doc for samples instead of paying $7 a pill or whatever they cost.

  3. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I’ve used free samples before, but only when I had to submit my prescriptions through mail order and thus needed something to hold me over until it arrived.

  4. edwardso says:

    I need my free nasonex samples to stretch the time between refils

  5. ClarenceCochonTheEasterPig says:

    Working for a doctor was quite the eye-opener. One day she off-handedly stated, “You know, I really like her [the drug rep]. I’m gonna start prescribing her medicine.” Blew me away! All it took was a couple of free lunches and some ugly pens and pads!

  6. thegirls says:

    Free drug samples have been a godsend for my mother. She’s uninsured and often cannot afford her prescriptions. If her doctor didn’t supplement her with samples, it would be an even bigger burden for the whole family.

  7. BabyGorilla says:

    I get free samples of my anti-depressant because there is no effective generic on the market yet. The hardest part for me was asking my doctor for help paying for my drugs…

  8. Zyzzyva100 says:

    And this is why the academic center where I go to medical school now has a pharm-free policy. No pharm lunches, no pharm office supplies, no samples. The only way they can do anything is to sponsor research (and the guidelines are tough – basically stating that the researcher has complete control and the company can find out about the research when the rest of the world does), student scholarships and patient education materials (like teaching dummies, but they can’t have the pharm name all over them).

    After hearing quite a few presentations on the topic, because this is a new policy as of last year, I think its definitely better for the patients this way. Plus I never got used to having the free perks, so I won’t miss them.

    • Fitwit says:

      @Zyzzyva100: Plus you’ll emerge with your pure as the wind driven snow holiness attitude and have your M.D. (‘Manners Deficient’)because you weren’t touched by the ‘evil pharmaceuticsl industry’. If a new drug ever helps you in your practice, thank a pharmaceutical co. And observe how few non-U.S. countries contribute to new drug development. That is, before we become socialist and halt new drug development altogether.

  9. Eilonwynn says:

    In my case, samples worked because we were trying to find the *one* drug that would solve a specific problem – but we wouldn’t know if it was really working until 3 months along. This way, she gave me samples until we found out whether it was working, and if it didn’t work, then neither of us felt like I was wasting money.

  10. ElizabethD says:

    Cue the Lexapro/Celexa debate. 3… 2… 1…

  11. bohemian says:

    Free samples work well if they want you to try something for a few days to see if it works before having you get a full prescription. Some of the samples are like a dealer giving you some free street drugs in the hopes they get you hooked. I had an intern give me a sample of this “new” asthma inhaler claiming it would work better. I went to get it filled at the pharmacy and it was $300.

    What concerns me are some of these drugs that people can’t just stop taking cold turkey without getting major withdrawls or physical backlash. If they take the samples they are basically hooked on it. Some of the anti-depressants are like that and things like Lyrica and Neurotin.

  12. fatcop says:

    Might not have written instructions?

    You mean I might make the mistake of jamming a pill up my ass?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I work at a doctor’s office and I can say- any doctor worth their salt will prescribe what medicine is best for the patient. The doctor I work with is not fazed by drug reps and their speeches and freebies- she prescribes what she knows works best. If we happen to have samples to get the patient started on their therapy, she gives the samples out.

  14. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i’ve gotten lots of free samples of my meds to hold me over when the pharmacy delays my prescription or when i was uninsured and couldn’t afford to fill it. literal lifesavers when i had to wait an extra 11 days to get my insulin delivered.

    [disclaimer – i work for a pharmaceutical company]
    i am not sure what the article means about no written instructions.
    EVERY drug that goes out, free sample or not, has the medication insert/prescribing information sent with it. if your doctor doesn’t give you the medication insert or doesn’t at least write the dosing directions down on a post it note… get a new doctor.

  15. Matheson Harris says:

    As an ophthalmologist who gives out lots of samples everyday, I see mostly the good side of them. I work at a state institution and see mostly uninsured patients. Many of them cannot afford the expensive glaucoma drops or antibiotics we prescribe. Many of them rely on samples to keep there sight.

    As a frugal person, I myself try and give my patients the least expensive, most effective treatment I can find. Free samples fits right into that mantra. I often give them a free sample of an expensive medication and then a prescription for a cheaper one if they require longer term use.

    If free sample meds were ever disallowed, we would have a very hard time treating many indigent people.

  16. Twila Olson says:

    I had to change anti-depressants due to side-effects, and the doctor told me, “Let’s try this other one. It also tends to have those same side-effects, but I can give you a month of free samples to try it out first.”

    Wondering if she would have put me on that brand if she hadn’t had free samples…

    P.S. Surprise! It gave me the same side-effects.

  17. Phexerian says:

    This is also why manufacturers and wholesalers sell drugs to hospitals cheaper than retail. Once the drug is on the formulary for a hospital, the drug companies hope that the patient’s physician will write for that drug while in the hospital. What they really want, is for the physician to write scripts for the drug for when the patient gets out of the hospital, thus they make more money. This is more along the lines of street dealer tactics.

    Samples IMHO, don’t add that much more cost compared to the overall savings they provide to many patients. Many times the physician will write for a drug that the pharmacy does not carry, and will have to order over the weekend or get it next day delivery, and samples get you started on it while you are waiting.

    -3rd Year PharmD/MBA Candidate