Accepting drug samples from companies has contributed to inappropriate prescribing practices because physicians may provide patients with a sample when there are better and, perhaps, safer alternatives available for both short-term and long-term use. Receiving drug samples tends to be an accepted practice among doctors because physicians-in-training see their physician mentors accepting and distributing drug samples from sales reps and, therefore, implicitly endorsing them.
Dr. Navindra Persaud led his colleagues in an effort to stop accepting and distributing free drug samples from pharmaceutical companies to patients in their family practice clinic at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. The 12 physicians in this clinic all signed a letter, which will be given to drug representatives who visit their clinic, stating their decision and asking the reps to respect their effort.
Dr. Persaud disagrees with this standard practice of physicians receiving drug samples, especially newer and more expensive medications. Drug companies often distribute newer and more costly medications as drug samples so that the physicians prescribe them and patients start demanding these medications over more reputable and generic drugs that have been on the market for longer and are less costly. Additionally, when patients who cannot afford these new and expensive medications become accustomed to certain drug samples and those samples run out, patients are left with problems, such as withdrawal.
Furthermore, Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor of Health Policy and Equity at York University and emergency department physician, states that physicians receiving drug samples can be problematic because there is not enough information on the safety of newer drugs. Furthermore, Dr. Lexchin states that approximately 90% of new medications fail to offer any significant therapeutic advantage over medications already approved and on the market, but are usually more expensive.
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