Regardless of where you are purchasing your prescription drugs, your prescription journey begins in your doctor’s office.  It is not uncommon for your doctor to provide you with free prescription drug samples when he or she is ready to start you on a new medication.  However, while the drug sample may be free, it might cost you more in the long run.  Pharmaceutical companies spend billions every year on distributing free drug samples to doctors across the U.S.  This is a good way to introduce these physicians to a new type of medication and it is also a good way to get patients to purchase these medications right from the start.

No Generic Free Samples

The free drug samples that doctors give out do have the benefit of allowing patients to try out new medications without paying for a prescription.  However, these samples are always for brand name drugs, not generic options.  Plus, a doctor handing out these free prescription drug samples is much more likely to prescribe these brand name drugs than their generic counterparts, leaving patients with a higher prescription drug bill each month.  In fact, research suggests that many physicians don’t take into consideration how much medication will cost their patients when writing a prescription.

Consider asthma medications.  According to a survey conducted in 2012, the Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 8% of adults and 9.3% of children suffer from asthma.  One of the most common asthma medications is Albuterol.  Compare the Albuterol price of $35.00 per pill to the generic Albuterol price of $9.75 per pill.  Or consider medications for high cholesterol, a condition found in 1/3 of Americans.  The brand name Lipitor price is around 80 cents per pill while the generic Lipitor price is closer to 46 cents per pill.

Other Dangers of Free Samples

In addition to the financial cost of the prescription that comes after the free drug samples are used up, patients may not be given adequate information regarding potential side effects and drug interactions, information they would normally get from a pharmacist.  In addition to this lack of patient education, there is a chance that the expired medication may not be caught when samples are handed out and adequate records of what the patient is taking may not be kept.  These drugs are often the most recent ones on the market, which means they are not tried and true like many of their more well-known equivalents.

What Patients Can Do

Doctors should certainly accept free prescription drug samples from pharmaceutical companies and patients are encouraged to try those free drug samples.  However, physicians must ensure they educate the patients about the medication, and as a patient, you must insist that you receive all relevant information to ensure your safety.  When it comes time for the actual prescription, patients should certainly ask their doctor about the cost of the medication they are being prescribed.  Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor if there is a generic version of the drug.  After all, these generic medications come at a significantly reduced cost compared to their brand name counterparts.  Your welfare when taking sample prescription drugs is your doctor’s responsibility, but it is also yours.  Always ask questions, find medication you can afford, and ensure that you know precisely what you are taking.