Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 9, 2009


Amy Calder, Morning Sentinel, ME - A report in the May issue of PLoS Medicine, an international medical journal, argues that the practice of giving free drug samples to patients not only poses a health risk to them, but also raises the cost of care.

The report explains that drug companies often make up for the costs of giving away free samples, considered by them a cost of marketing, through higher prices and increased sales. The report's authors, Susan Chimonas of the Center on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, and Jerome P. Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a Tufts University School of Medicine professor, also dispute some long-held claims that the gift of free samples to patients can benefit people of low income.

Studies show that fewer than one-third of people who receive free samples are poor and uninsured, and those patients might not be able to continue taking the medicine once the samples are used up -- because they cannot afford to pay for a prescription.

Drug-expiration dates on free samples might be overlooked, posing risks to patients, the report adds.


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