First it was direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, then free gifts to physicians, followed by pharma-funded continuing medical education (CME). Now the distribution of free Rx drug samples to physicians by pharmaceutical companies is being attacked by physicians and reported in main stream news media. I warned of this back in August 2008 (seems like ages ago!) in the post “What’s Next: Ban Free Drug Samples?

As reported today in the New York Times (see “Study Says Drug Samples May Endanger Children“), “a new study suggests that free drug samples, an effective marketing tool for the drug industry, do little to help the poor and may put children’s health at risk.” The study was done by a Harvard Medical School researcher who analyzed an in-depth survey conducted in 2004 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A previous study done by research at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that “physicians are over three times more likely to prescribe generic medications to uninsured patients when drug samples are not available; however, patients with comprehensive drug coverage (Medicaid) received a high proportion of generic prescriptions regardless of sample availability.” (See “Drug Samples: To those that have, it shall be given. The rest pay list price!“)

PhRMA is Silent — How About You?
Both these studies are bouncing around lesser media outlets and the Pharma Blogosphere, but so far I have not heard any official comments from the pharmaceutical industry (ie, PhRMA).

I offer PhRMA and ALL readers of this blog and and my newsletter — Pharma Marketing News — a chance to sound off on issues relating to the distribution of free Rx drug samples by the pharmaceutical industry. You can do this by taking the Pharmaceutical Sampling Practices Survey, which asks if you agree or disagree with following statements:

  • Samples encourage physicians and patients to rely on medications that are expensive, but often not more effective than other available drugs.
  • Physicians value samples and are willing to spend time with sales representatives to get them.
  • Samples serve PRIMARILY as an enticement to prescribe new, heavily marketed and generally more expensive medications.
  • Distribution of samples to low-income or uninsured patients is of limited utility in reducing the burden of high drug costs for these patients.
  • Considering the other limitations being placed on pharmaceutical sales reps — eg, no free gifts to physicians — samples are the BEST way for sales reps to gain access to physicians.
  • Banning the distribution of free samples to doctors by pharmaceutical sales representatives will be detrimental to patients (eg, patients will be forced to fill a prescription for a drug that may not be tolerable or efficacious for them).
  • Samples are an essential component of physician marketing and assure market share growth for the drug. That is, without free samples, it is less likely that doctors will prescribe the drug as a first choice.

I also welcome your comments.

Your comments are confidential (anonymous) unless you specifically provide your contact information at the end of the survey and allow us to attribute comments to you personally. (The results of this survey will be published in the November issue of Pharma Marketing News.

After taking the survey, you will be able to review a de-identified summary of results.

Please take the Pharmaceutical Sampling Practices Survey