Usefulness of drug samples extends beyond assisting low-income patients

LETTER — Posted March 14, 2005

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Regarding "Practice draws notice for its no-gift policy" (Article, Feb. 14): This article perpetuates the myth that physician drug samples only have value in helping needy patients afford treatment. As a specialist in a respiratory medicine clinic, we use samples of inhalers and nasal sprays to teach patients how to use the devices properly and let them administer their first dose in the clinic under supervision.

I also give the first dose of an antibiotic to patients from samples whether they are indigent or not as a way of initiating treatment rapidly. Many patients go back to work after leaving the clinic and don't fill their prescription until later in the day. This use of samples eliminates treatment delay -- a worthy medical goal.

Physicians are losing patience with the "one-size-fits-all" approaches forced on us by insurers and others not directly involved in patient care. Please highlight the clinical benefits of samples so that those who propose that patient-assistance programs can adequately substitute for physician drug samples understand that samples can be used at the point of care in other worthwhile ways.

Michael O'Connell, MD, Denver

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/03/14/edlt0314.htm.

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