Context: Pharmaceutical samples are commonly used in ambulatory care settings. There is limited research on their use or impact on health care providers and patients.
Objective: To determine the extent of personal use of drug samples over a 1-year period by physicians and medical office staff.
Design, subjects, and setting: An anonymous cross-sectional survey of all physicians, resident physicians, nursing staff, and office staff in a family practice residency.
Main outcome measure: Quantity of drug samples taken for personal or family use.
Results: Of 55 surveys issued, 53 (96%) were returned. A total of 230 separate drug samples were reported taken in amounts ranging from 1 dose to greater than 1 month's supply. Two respondents reported no use of drug samples, while 4 respondents reported taking more than 10 different samples.
Conclusion: Drug samples are commonly taken by physicians and office staff for personal and family use. The ethical implications of this practice warrant further discussion.