What to know about drug samples

February 24, 2009 7:32:19 AM PST
What you should know before accepting free drug samples from doctors.SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Prescription drugs can be awfully expensive, even when doctors give them to you for free.

"Typically the drug companies only give out more expensive brand name drugs as free patient samples. If you do well on the medication, your doctor is likely to keep prescribing it. Then after the free drug samples run out, you'll be paying more than you have to," said Toni Hope, Good Housekeeping.

And that's why one pediatrician makes it a policy not to distribute drug samples.

"It's not so much giving out the samples to children in the sense that the medications that I would receive from the drug companies are as good as anything else. It's what it is going into my judgment about what a child needs for a particular illness, and I want to be making those judgments clear of any other kinds of external influences," said Dr. Andrew Racine, Director, Pediatrics Children's Hospital Montefore.

But getting free samples is not without its benefits - sometimes you only need a drug for a week or two.

"But if you need it for a longer term, ask about cheaper alternatives, generics or ones that are available through your insurance plan," said Toni Hope, Good Housekeeping.

Good Housekeeping reports that 90 percent of all doctors receive free samples. Now some academic medical centers have started restricting the use of drug samples or banning them altogether.

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