Thursday, January 3, 2008

Free Drug Samples Don't Help Those in Need

An article in the upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that free drug samples distributed by drug reps are not being given to those in need, but rather to patients who have health insurance. Findings from the report include:
  • about 12 percent of all Americans have received at least one free sample
  • 13 percent of those with insurance were given a sample, while about 10 percent of those uninsured for all or part of the year got one, a statistically significant finding
  • 72 percent had income above 200 percent of the federal poverty line, while 28 percent had incomes below that level
The study also found that the recalled pain reliever, Vioxx, was in 2002, the most frequently distributed medication even though the medical indications for its use should have been limited to those at high risk for stomach ulcers and bleeds. It was learned shortly afterwards that Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks.

Why is this important to you? The author of the study initially thought that it was possible that the free medication samples had a good benefit which was to help provide a safety net to those with inadequate or no health insurance. However, this article only reinforces the perception that drug companies are out to market their medications, which isn't always in your best interest.

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