Free Drug Samples May End Up Costing More

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But Reginald Frye, an associate professor in the department of pharmacy practice at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in Gainesville, agreed that while free samples can benefit patients, they must be used carefully.

"For example, sometimes you have a question as to if a drug is going to work well for your patient, so you give him or her the free sample as a trial," he said. "And there's, of course, the initial intent to spare some expense. But I'm not too surprised that it would influence a patient's choice later on and perhaps not to that patient's benefit."

"So it's important," he added, "for a physician to discuss with patients all the options, such as the availability of generics at a cheaper cost. And for their part, patients should ask their pharmacists as well if a brand name drug is available as a generic."

More information

There's more on generic drugs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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