Free Drug Samples May Be a Health Risk for Children

Posted on Thursday, January 1, 2009 by khabibkhan

A group of researchers from Cambridge Health Alliance and Hasbro Children's Hospital found that 1 in 20 U.S. residents under the age of 18 received at least one free drug sample in 2004. Additionally, when counting just those who were prescribed medication, 1 in 10 received at least one free sample.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data on 10,295 U.S. residents under the age of 18 to examine the use of free drug samples in pediatric patients. The data was taken from a 2004 national survey regarding medical spending.

According to lead author Sarah Cutrona, an internist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts, giving out free samples “encourages a casual attitude toward medications.” Cutrona also said that in distributing free samples, important safety checks done by pharmacists are bypassed and that samples do not include childproof caps or instructions regarding children’s doses and procedures for an accidental overdose.

The researchers also found that out of the 15 most commonly distributed free samples, 2 are medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These medications, Strattera and Adderall, are controlled and monitored by the Drug Enforcement Agency due to high potential for abuse. Both drugs also carry the strongest possible safety warnings required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, called “black box” on their labels, as do two of the other commonly sampled medications known as Elidel, used for atopic dermatitis, and Advair, for asthma.