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Free Drug Samples Tied to More Branded Prescriptions

Total retail cost of acne Rx twice as high for those at practices given free drug samples

Free Drug Samples Tied to More Branded Prescriptions

FRIDAY, April 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Free drug samples drive the prescribing practices of physicians away from less expensive generic medications, according to a study published online April 16 in JAMA Dermatology.

Michael P. Hurley, from Stanford University in California, and colleagues investigated the relationships between free samples of acne drugs and dermatologists' local and national prescribing patterns. A nationally representative sample of office-based dermatologists from the National Disease and Therapeutic Index was assessed, as was a group of dermatologists practicing in an academic medical center clinic without samples.

The researchers found that the provision of samples with a prescription by dermatologists is correlated (r = 0.92) with the use of the branded generic drugs promoted by these samples. The majority of prescriptions written nationally (79 percent) were for branded and branded generic drugs, compared to 17 percent at an academic-based clinic without samples. The increased use of branded and branded generic drugs resulted in a national mean total retail cost of prescriptions at an office visit for acne that was conservatively estimated to be two times higher ($465 nationally versus $200 at an academic medical center without samples).

"The benefits of free samples in dermatology must be weighed against potential negative effects on prescribing behavior and prescription costs," write the authors.

One author disclosed past expert testimony for Mylan Pharmaceuticals, a manufacturer of generic medications, regarding patterns of doxycycline use in the treatment of rosacea.

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