Patients lose when doctors can’t provide free drug samplesThings are not always as they appear, and that is especially true in the ongoing debate on health care. For example, one of Wisconsin’s largest hospital systems recently decided that its doctors are prohibited from giving patients free drug samples.
By: By Joseph Hammang, Superior Telegram
Things are not always as they appear, and that is especially true in the ongoing debate on health care. For example, one of Wisconsin’s largest hospital systems recently decided that its doctors are prohibited from giving patients free drug samples.
This is a misguided attempt that actually could cost patients more and drive up the cost of health care. It will also negatively impact physicians and patients by restricting their right to all treatment options.
When treating a patient, the physician looks at all the available options to determine the right therapy. Most important is that the patient receives the treatment agreed upon with the physician. Samples provide a quick and simple way to help make that determination. By removing free samples, doctors and patients lose yet another avenue for deciding the best treatment.
Sadly, this trend is occurring in other areas, too. Some clinics have banned visits by pharmaceutical representatives, isolating physicians from vital information on the latest treatments. Some academic medical institutions have adopted policies that discourage collaboration with industry, compromising innovation that can lead to new treatment and new uses of existing medicines. Similarly, some insurers are now pressuring doctors through various inducements to limit drug treatments to a narrow selection of drugs, usually generics, rather than allowing them to explore a full range of options for patients.
What you may not know is prescription medicines make up only about 10 cents of every dollar spent on health care and numerous studies, including a recent one published in the Journal of the American Medical Association; show drug therapy actually lowers the overall cost of health care. Meantime, pharmaceutical companies spend roughly 17 percent of their income on research, more than any other industry. That drug innovation has also greatly increased life expectancy for patients suffering from a huge array of diseases, from heart disease to cancer to HIV to diabetes to childhood diseases and many more.
Being able to make your own choices is what is best for the patient and doctors should have all options on the table when considering a treatment plan. Taking away a no-cost tool that allows doctors to help make patients feel better is not only hurtful, it is unnecessary.
Joseph Hammang is senior director of science policy at Pfizer Inc., a neuroscientist, Wisconsin native and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.