Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 1458–1464

Use of Prescription Drug Samples and Patient Assistance Programs, and the Role of Doctor–Patient Communication

  • Walid F. Gellad
  • Haiden A. Huskamp
  • Angela Li
  • Yuting Zhang
  • Dana Gelb Safran
  • Julie M. Donohue
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-011-1801-y

Cite this article as:
Gellad, W.F., Huskamp, H.A., Li, A. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2011) 26: 1458. doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1801-y

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Cost-related underuse of medications is common among older adults, who seldom discuss medication costs with their physicians. Some older adults may use free drug samples or industry-sponsored patient assistance programs (PAP) in hopes of lowering out-of-pocket costs, although the long-term effect of these programs on drug spending is unclear.

OBJECTIVE

To examine older adults’ use of industry-sponsored strategies to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs and the association between doctor–patient communication and use of these programs.

DESIGN

Cross-sectional analysis of a 2006 nationally representative survey of Medicare beneficiaries.

PARTICIPANTS

14,322 community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries age ≥65.

MAIN MEASURES

We conducted bivariate and multivariate analyses of the association between receipt of free samples and participation in PAPs with sociodemographic characteristics, health status, access to care, drug coverage, medication cost burden, and doctor–patient communication.

KEY RESULTS

51.4% of seniors reported receiving at least one free sample over the last 12 months and 29.2% reported receiving free samples more than once. In contrast, only 1.3% of seniors reported participating in an industry-sponsored PAP. Higher income respondents were more likely to report free sample receipt than low-income respondents (50.8% vs. 43.8%, p < 0.001) and less likely to report participating in a PAP (0.42% vs. 2.2%, p < 0.001). In multivariate analyses, those who reported talking to their doctor about the cost of their medications had more than twice the odds of receiving samples as those who did not (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.95–2.42).

CONCLUSIONS

In 2006, over half of seniors in Medicare received free samples, but only 1.3% reported receiving any medications from a patient assistance program. Doctor–patient communication is strongly associated with use of these programs, which has important implications for clinical care regardless of whether these programs are viewed as drivers of prescription costs or a remedy for them.

KEY WORDS

free drug samplesprescription assistance programsMedicarephysician–patient communication

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walid F. Gellad
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Haiden A. Huskamp
    • 4
  • Angela Li
    • 5
    • 6
  • Yuting Zhang
    • 7
  • Dana Gelb Safran
    • 5
    • 6
  • Julie M. Donohue
    • 7
  1. 1.Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Center for Health Equity Research and PromotionPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.University of Pittsburgh School of MedicinePittsburghUSA
  3. 3.RAND CorporationPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.The Health Institute, Tufts Medical CenterBostonUSA
  6. 6.Blue Cross Blue Shield of MassachusettsBostonUSA
  7. 7.University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public HealthPittsburghUSA