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Free drug samples for kids may not be safe!

In countries where the cost of health care is high and the prices of medications a burden, many people are happy to received free drug samples from their health care providers.

A survey in the US which involved 10,295 children and adolescents (age below 18) gives the following information:

  • 4.9% of all children received at least 1 free drug sample.
  • 10% of children who were prescribed drugs also got at least 1 free drug sample.
  • Free drug sample distribution was not dependent on socioeconomic status. All children received samples regardless of income or health insurance coverage

So what’s the big deal? Who doesn’t want freebies?

The problem lies in the fact that some of these free drugs actually have safety problems – major safety problems in some cases. Among the top 15 most commonly distributed free samples are

  • 2 drugs classified as schedule II controlled medications, drugs which are closely monitored by the US FDA because they can be addictive and are prone to abuse.
  • 4 drugs with the so-called “black box warnings” issued by the US FDA, the most serious type of safety warning in prescription drug labeling.
  • Some drugs indicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Freebies are used as marketing tools by big pharmaceutical companies. It has always been thought that doctors tended to distribute free drug samples to needy patients. The survey results indicate otherwise. So, what is the motivation behind the doctors’ act of giving free drug samples? Is it simply to clear out the clutter and reduce the inventory? Or are there greedy motives behind the act? Are they aware of the safety issues concerning the drugs they are giving away?

What do you think?

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