Objective: This study evaluated the effect of pharmaceutical samples on the prescribing habits of family practice residents and faculty in the treatment of hypertension.
Methods: Charts from two time periods were reviewed for a diagnosis of hypertension--January and February 1997 when drug samples were available and January and February 1998 when sample distribution was prohibited. Progress notes were assessed for medication prescribed, patient age, and doctor seen. Prescribed antihypertensive medications were defined as first- or second-line drugs based on the Sixth Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC VI). Comparisons were made between the two time periods and between faculty and residents.
Results: Overall, faculty were much less likely than residents to prescribe first-line medications: 43% versus 57%. Following prohibition of sample distribution, there was an increase in first-line antihypertensive use from 38% to 61%.
Conclusions: The prescription of first-line drugs for the treatment of hypertension increased after drug sample distribution was prohibited. Studies are needed to determine the extent to which drug sample availability affects prescription practices.