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Article |

Personal Use of Drug Samples by Physicians and Office Staff

John M. Westfall, MD, MPH; Jennifer McCabe; Richard A. Nicholas, MD
JAMA. 1997;278(2):141-143. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550020073041.
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Context.  —Pharmaceutical samples are commonly used in ambulatory care settings. There is limited research on their use or impact on health care providers and patients.

Objective.  —To determine the extent of personal use of drug samples over a 1-year period by physicians and medical office staff.

Design, Subjects, and Setting.  —An anonymous cross-sectional survey of all physicians, resident physicians, nursing staff, and office staff in a family practice residency.

Main Outcome Measure.  —Quantity of drug samples taken for personal or family use.

Results.  —Of 55 surveys issued, 53 (96%) were returned. A total of 230 separate drug samples were reported taken in amounts ranging from 1 dose to greater than 1 month's supply. Two respondents reported no use of drug samples, while 4 respondents reported taking more than 10 different samples.

Conclusion.  —Drug samples are commonly taken by physicians and office staff for personal and family use. The ethical implications of this practice warrant further discussion.


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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