Friday, September 05, 2008

Drug Samples: To those that have, it shall be given. The rest pay list price!

Researchers 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 press release here.)

This reminded me of a passage from Matthew 13:12 -- "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

This "parable of the sower" is appropriate given the role of free samples to "sow" the seeds for new scripts. I also note that a quote from the Bible is appropriate given the organization that employed the researchers!

According to the parable, if you are given a seed and it falls on "good soil" it will grow; if you are given a seed and it falls on "bad soil," it will die.

In this case, uninsured patients -- those that "have not" -- not only get the seed (ie, free samples), but their money is taken away by being prescribed more expensive brand name drugs. Medicaid patients (those that "have") on the other hand, get a break in either case because they are prescribed generics.

What's Your Opinion?
No doubt this study will be used by those who wish to ban free drug samples given to physicians by pharmaceutical sales reps. I have already written about this: see "What's Next: Ban Free Drug Samples?"

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