Drug freebies not getting to the poor

A new study by Harvard-affiliated researchers has drawn a conclusion which, if widely accepted, could shift the dialog on the use of pharma-provided drug samples. The study has concluded that while the poor do receive free drug samples, almost all go to well-off patients who have insurance. This puts a stake in the argument that physicians need to accept samples to ease the burden carried by the poor and uninsured. The study, which was conducted by physicians with Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance, concluded that 82 percent of patients getting free samples during 2003 were insured throughout the year. Only 18 percent of those receiving free samples were uninsured for part of all of the year. Ethnicity also seems to play a role in who gets samples--a head-turning 81 percent of free-drug recipients were white. The study is set to be published in the February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

To find out more about the study:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece
- see the Boston Globe report