Objective: To determine the extent to which pharmaceutical representatives misuse their samples.
Design: Voluntary questionnaire survey.
Setting: A family practice office.
Participants: Pharmaceutical representatives visiting the office during a 3-month period.
Main outcome measures: Number of surveyed representatives who self-medicated, provided samples of prescription drugs to nonphysicians, or exchanged drugs with other representatives; classes of prescription drugs most commonly used; and beneficiaries.
Results: Of the 27 representatives surveyed, 16 (59.2%) have provided prescription drug samples to individuals other than physicians. Thirteen (48.1%) either self-medicated or provided samples to friends or relatives. Seven (25.9%) have exchanged drug samples with other representatives. Eleven (40.7%) of the 27 surveyed had not sampled prescription drugs themselves, given them to others, or exchanged drugs with other representatives. The most commonly sampled drugs were nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Drug samples were most often given to friends and spouses.
Conclusion: Self-medication and giving samples to nonphysicians were practised by almost 60% of surveyed representatives. Representatives usually caution recipients, however, and there are very few complications. Drugs with potential for abuse or dependence and cardiovascular medications were rarely used.