It is common practice for physicians and providers to dispense free sample medications to patients. The benefits of dispensing sample medications are numerous: it allows patients to try new medications on a trial basis; saves patients money on expensive medications; reduces non-adherence to medication regimens; expedites getting prescription medications into the hands of patients; and can strengthen the physician-patient relationship. But, as with most everything you do, there are risks.
As with any new medication, adverse reactions and/or side-effects are a possibility, but with sample medications there is no pharmacist safety net. Similarly, there is often no package insert or handout that provides patient education, instructions, or safety warnings. Therefore, it is solely incumbent upon the physician/provider to educate, instruct, and warn the patient about these things. The duty of care owed to patients is no less when dispensing sample medications than it is when writing prescriptions.
Moreover, sample medications require the same level of security and accountability as their prescription counterparts. Lack of proper storage, security safeguards, inventory documentation, and sample medication policies can lead to additional risks. Allowing access to the sample medication storage closet by staff can result in misuse and diversion of drugs to family and friends without up-to-date documentation and routine audits.
Finally, a lack of documentation relative to dispensed samples, including manufacturer, lot number, expiration date, and quantity can be problematic in the event of a drug recall.
To minimize these risks, do the following:
If you have any questions, please contact SVMIC at 800.342.2239 or by email at ContactSVMIC@svmic.com.
Jeffrey A. Woods is the Director of Risk Education in the Risk Education and Evaluation Services Department at SVMIC. Jeff received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee Martin and his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Following graduation, he practiced law in Knoxville for almost 15 years, advising physicians and healthcare providers and defending them in malpractice claims. He is licensed to practice in Tennessee and all Federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association.
Jeff joined SVMIC in 2003 and was a Senior Claims Attorney until 2015 when he transferred to his current position.
We're always just an email or phone call away.contact us