Samples’ side effects

Upfront is a quick look at the latest developments from Stanford Medicine

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or, for that matter, a free drug sample. Oh, sure, your doctor might hand you a medication to try before writing a prescription, and you could walk out the door without forking over any cash. But a recent study in JAMA Dermatology by Stanford dermatologist Alfred Lane, MD, indicates that when doctors with access to free samples do write prescriptions, they tend to be for more-expensive medications — an average retail cost of $465 versus about $200 for a diagnosis of adult acne. Dermatologists without access to samples (Stanford for example, bars doctors from receiving drug samples) are more likely to use cheaper, generic medications. Lane’s not suggesting your doctor’s in cahoots with pharmaceutical companies — the increased expense is likely unintentional. What he’s found is evidence of the power of marketing. And the fact that your mother is always right.

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