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Drug Samples Do Not Reduce Costs to Patients

Out-of-pocket expenses higher for those receiving samples

TUESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who receive free pharmaceutical samples bear a disproportionately high burden of out-of-pocket medical expenses compared with those who do not receive samples, according to research published in the April issue of Medical Care.

G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., of the University of Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from the nationally representative 2002-2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey covering 5,709 patients, of whom 14 percent received a minimum of one sample during the analysis period.

Patients who received samples tended to be younger and were not Medicaid recipients, the investigators found. Patients who never received samples had predicted 180-day out-of-pocket expenses of $178, whereas patients receiving samples had expenses of $166 prior to receipt, which rose to $244 during receipt and were $212 after receipt.

"Although free pharmaceutical samples may provide many patients with valuable short-term economic relief, our results highlight the economic burden that persists for patients who receive pharmaceutical samples, both during and following periods of sample receipt," the authors conclude. "If this is due primarily to enhanced brand loyalty induced by sample receipt, then it may have welfare reducing effects on sample recipients due to the foregone alternatives to the sampled drug that are never used."

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