From Pharmacy Drug Guide
Free drug samples sometimes help patients save money before purchasing an expensive medication that is not effective for them. In addition, free samples can also help patients that are struggling financially, or who don't have health insurance for prescription drugs, save money on more expensive medications by getting them for free. However, sample sizes are typically small, and thus are not a long-term health solution. Patient assistance programs sometimes provide free prescription medications to those who cannot afford them, often for up to a year.
Flickr: Simon J. Newbury
|Available for||Prescription and OTC medications|
|Volume||Pharmaceutical companies spent $6.3 billion on samples in 2011, down 30 percent compared to 2007|
|Effect on patient cost||Patients who receive free prescription drug samples spend 40% more than patients who do not during the six months they receive samples|
|Banned by||Some medical groups|
|Generally available for||Newer medications|
|Disclaimer||The information provided by PharmacyDrugGuide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Do not take any action based on the information on this page without consulting a physician.|
Where to Get Free Drug Samples
Free drug samples are available for both prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Samples are distributed by physicians and pharmaceutical companies. Most prescription drug samples are given out by doctors, while OTC drug samples are offered through direct mail marketing, local pharmacies, or by request from the manufacturers.
Free prescription drug samples can be obtained from a patient's personal physician. They are administered for a variety of ailments and conditions, including acute illnesses like sinus infections and strep throat, and long-term conditions like asthma and birth control. Most samples are administered only after a patient has seen their doctor.
Over-the-counter drug samples, on the other hand, are easier to obtain, and do not require a doctor's visit. Patients can obtain OTC samples through the following methods:
- Contacting the pharmaceutical company directly about obtaining free drug samples for a specific OTC drug product. Many companies already have programs for administering such samples to potential customers. Samples are usually sent by direct mail, and may take up to six weeks for delivery.
- Sometimes stores like Walmart and Target offer free samples of OTC medications. The store's official website contains sample information, and some stores schedule regular sample days weekly.
Types of Free Drug Samples
Prescription drug samples are supplied to doctors by pharmaceutical company representatives, and are usually for new, brand-name prescription drugs. Doctors then administer these drug samples to patients free of charge.
Over the counter (OTC) drug samples are offered to the public by the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture them. These are usually single dosages, and are available by standard mail when consumers request the samples directly from the company. Samples may also be sent to the consumer's home as part of direct mail marketing campaigns.
Free Drug Sample Concerns
According to MSNBC, patients who use free samples end up paying significantly more on drugs than those who are not using free samples. For patients that only require medication for a short amount of time, free drug samples can reduce costs. However, for those trying out free drug samples for long-term ailments like asthma, the future drug costs may outweigh the benefits of the free samples. This is because most free samples are for brand name drugs, and a patient's doctor will only have a small amount to administer at the outset. When a patients asks for more, their doctor will have to write them a prescription, and the brand name drug will be much more expensive than the generic version.
Although drug companies tout their sample programs as ways to help cut medical costs for the poor, many health professionals see samples as nothing more than a marketing gimmick to push expensive brand-name products. One study showed that the majority of drug samples went to high-income people, as well as those with health insurance, rather than to the needy.
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