A study published in the October 2008 edition of the journal Pediatrics concluded that poor and uninsured children are not the main recipients of free drug samples and that free samples do not target the neediest of children selectively and in addition, they have significant safety considerations.
Study authors were looking to describe characteristics of free sample recipients and to determine whether samples are given primarily to poor and uninsured children, and to examine potential safety issues.
The study analyzed data on 10,295 US residents under 18 years old from the 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a survey that includes questions on receipt of free drug samples. Study authors performed bivariate and multivariate analyses to evaluate characteristics associated with receipt of less than one free sample in 2004. They identified the most frequently reported sample meds and reviewed potential safety issues.
Data from the study concluded that 10% of children who received prescription medications and 4.9% of all children received less than one free drug sample in 2004. Children who were uninsured for part or all of the year were no more likely to receive samples than were those who were insured all year (4.5% vs 5.1%); 84.3% of all sample recipients were insured.
In multivariate analyses, routine access to healthcare (greater than three provider visits in 2004) was associated with free sample receipts.