Free Drug Samples Usually Go to Wealthiest Patients

NaturalNews | Contrary to claims by the pharmaceutical industry, it is usually wealthier and insured patients who receive free drug samples, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance and published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers used data from the 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. A total of 32,681 U.S. residents were surveyed at home, and asked various questions about topics including prescriptions and drug samples that they had received from doctors.

The researchers found that the practice of giving out free drug samples is widespread, with 12 percent of respondents saying they had received at least one free sample in 2003. But while 12.9 percent of those who had health insurance for the whole year had received samples, only 9.9 percent of those who had spent part of 2003 uninsured had done so. Wealthier patients were also more likely to receive free samples, while those with an income less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level were least likely to do so.

The 2003 federal poverty line was $18,400 per year for a family of four.

Many health companies and hospitals have begun to question to practice of drug companies providing free samples to doctors, citing issues of conflict of interest. But associations like the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have said that giving out samples helps doctors serve poorer patients who have trouble affording prescription drugs.

The current study found that doctors were indeed trying to help poorer patients with free samples, but that poorer and uninsured patients were less likely to see a doctor in the first place.

“Our study supports the idea that doctors are trying to target the neediest patients,” said researcher author Sarah Cutrona, “but the uninsured are less likely to get their care in the office and be that person who walks through the door.”