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Psst, Wanna Sample Some Free Pills

A study of prescription use of nearly 33,000 U.S. residents during 2003 found that the neediest are least likely to get free samples:

"Our findings suggest the free samples serve as a marketing tool, not a safety net," said Dr. Sarah Cutrona, co-author of the report to be published in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

I have to tell you that the findings of this study are far removed from my experience. From the first days of internship, when I learned from senior residents to hoard Lupron samples ($400/shot) in my locker to give to uninsured patients, to clinic days when we used to stuff all the available drawers with free OCP samples*, I'm hard pressed to come up with a single example when the free samples were used as a marketing tool.

Our patients could barely afford the trip to the clinic; spending money on the latest or trendiest OCP just wasn't an option for them.

*[Even when we were no longer allowed to keep free samples in the clinic (possibly, one of the most counterproductive regulation ever), we still managed to supply our patients with OCPs from, you guessed it, the free supply of samples.]
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