Objective: To describe residents' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding sample medications and to determine the education provided in residency training regarding sample use.
Methods: A 6-item survey was sent to directors of US family practice residency programs. Residents of a sample of these programs were sent an anonymous, self-administered, 21-item questionnaire assessing knowledge, attitudes, and practices relating to sample use. Both surveys consisted of initial and follow-up mailings.
Results: The residency directors' survey was returned by 232 of the 436 residency directors (53%). Although 66% of the programs had a policy regarding samples, only 15% of the policies completely incorporated recommendations of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. After two mailings, 248 resident responses were received from 43 of 47 residencies (92%). Only 21% of respondents thought that they received adequate training about sample use in medical school; this number increased to 49% for residency training. Agreement with the adequate training statement was highest among respondents from residencies that had both a sample distribution policy and a pharmacist (p = 0.044). Fifty-five percent thought that samples influenced their prescribing and 70% thought that samples helped them to learn more about the sampled medication.
Conclusions: Family practice residents value and use samples, although they are often unaware of the rules governing the labeling of samples. While reported distribution of samples by residents often is appropriate, education about effective sample use could be improved. Drug samples play a significant role in residency training.