The effect of medication samples on self-reported prescribing practices: A statewide, cross-sectional survey

Richard G. Pinckney, A. Shams Helminski, Amanda G. Kennedy, Charles D. MacLean, Laurie Hurowitz, Elizabeth Cote

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: The pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars annually to encourage clinicians to prescribe their medications. Small studies have demonstrated that one of the marketing strategies, the distribution of free sample medications, is associated with increased use of brand name medication over generic medication. Objectives: To determine the relationship between the presence of drug samples in primary care clinics and prescription of preferred drug treatments. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Participants: Primary care prescribers in the state of Vermont. Main Measurement: Prescribers were presented with two clinical vignettes and asked to provide the name of the medication they would prescribe in each case. We compared the responses of prescribers with and without samples in their clinics. Key Results: Two hundred six prescribers out of the total population of 631 returned the survey and met the eligibility criteria. Seventy-two percent of prescribers had sample closets in their clinics. Seventy percent of clinicians with samples would prescribe a thiazide diuretic for hypertension compared to 91% in those without samples (P<0.01). For managing depression 91% of prescribers with samples would have provided a generic medication in a patient with no health insurance, compared to 100% of those without samples in their clinic (P=0.02). Conclusions: Clinicians with samples in their clinics were less likely to prescribe preferred medications for hypertension and depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-44
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • drugs
  • evidence-based medicine
  • physician behavior
  • professionalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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