I happily turn over the bully pulpit to a family physician colleague that I have never met, Gail Hacker of Oregon, author of this op-ed in the Eugene Register-Guard:
Hacker does a very nice job of explaining why so-called "free" samples are of so little use even in a clinic that serves mostly indigent and uninsured patients--and what practical approaches work better. She also correctly notes that both the "free" samples, as well as all the gifts and goodies physicians accept from Pharma, drive up the costs of medication for everyone, but especially for her indigent clientele.
I've said elsewhere that any physicians who devotes their careers mainly to serving lower income patients are heroes in my book, and the last thing I would ever want to do is beat them up if they find that they can do this better by the use of industry promotional samples (and can find a way actually to get the samples--as Dr. Hacker points out, the reps usually give her indigent clinics a wide berth). But Dr. Hacker reminds us that in some cases where the clinic has previously relied on samples, there may actually be better alternatives.
Thanks to the Prescription Project Weekly Reader for alerting me to this valuable article!