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Free Drug Samples Prescription Percentage on Hike by Dermatologists

Doctors who gave patients free samples of acne drugs also wound up writing prescriptions for more expensive medications, a new study finds. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times )

A new research that was published in the journal JAMA Dermatology states that free samples given by the doctors to patients as ‘prescription drugs’ though looks like a good deal is actually benefiting only the drug manufacturers.

Doctors who gave patients free samples of acne drugs also wound up writing prescriptions for more expensive medications, a new study finds. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times )

Doctors who gave patients free samples of acne drugs also wound up writing prescriptions for more expensive medications, a new study finds. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times )

Giving free drug samples to patients have been banned in many private medical clinics, the Veteran’s Health Administration, the US military, Kaiser Permanente and many Academic Medical Centres. Prescribing these drugs and giving free samples result in giving less safe drugs which are not as safe as generic medicines. Further they are also expensive when bought. Critics say that if doctors want to give their patients who are uninsured or come from low-income family costly medications, better methods should be used.

In spite of these free samples being banned, over 6.3 billion worth of drugs was distributed by doctors in the year 2011 alone. This information was provided by a market research firm Cegedim Strategic Data. This information further added that, of all physicians, dermatologists give out maximum free samples because medicines related to dermatology are generally expensive. In a recent study done by researchers from Stanford University shows that by giving out free samples, dermatologists always prescribe these medications.

The research was done basically on patients diagnosed with adult acne and information was pulled from The National Disease and Therapeutic Index. Dermatologists love the idea of giving out free samples and the data show that over 80% of the prescriptions written in 2010 came from free sample. This is a drastic increase from 12% reported in the year 2001.

In fact, specifically in adult acne patients 25% of prescriptions came from samples in the year 2010 which was only 10% in 2001. The research further showed that Retin-A Micro, Differin, Benzaclin and Duac were the 4 highly prescribed acne drugs by most of the dermatologists in United States. Researchers argue that by prescribing free samples, doctors are not helping patients to save money but instead only pharmaceutical companies benefitted. This behaviour was already reported in the year 2008.

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