Time to take on the drug samples problem



Time to take on the drug samples problem
So yet another institution probably will lower the boom on gifts from pharmas and medical device manufacturers. As you saw yesterday, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is proposing to ban all forms of pharma and device freebies, up to and including drug samples, and even suspend admitting privileges of physicians who break the rules.

Is this a good idea? I'd argue that while it sounds nice, it's pretty questionable to ban samples until you come up with a workable alternative for poor patients. Sure, UPMC is said to be considering choices, but it doesn't look like that's a central part of its plans.

I'm not suggesting institutions should never set limits on accepting drug samples. After all, it seems intuitively obvious having them on hand will encourage physicians to use them, and then prescribe the drug thereafter.

But it doesn't seem fair to penalize the poor and struggling middle-income patients who can't afford co-pays just on principle. As a consumer, I'm all for knowing physicians are unbiased, but the reality is that samples bring some pretty effective drugs to patients who wouldn't be able to get them otherwise.

What I'd really like to see is an industry-wide effort, perhaps spearheaded by the same institutions which are kicking off bans, to come up with a vigorous, realistic and effective alternative to accepting samples en masse. We're not talking about some vague discussion of vouchers here--I'm talking a real-world solution.

OK, folks, are any of you aware of such a solution? Even better, have you come up with one that works in your facility? Write to me and tell me more! -Anne

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