Prescription drug samples – does this marketing strategy counteract policies for quality use of medicines?


K. E. M. Groves, Faculty of Management, School of Business, Dalhousie University, 6152 Coburg Road, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 3J5. Tel.: 1 902 494 2149; fax: 1 902 494 1107; e-mail:


Prescription drug samples, as used by the pharmaceutical industry to market their products, are of current interest because of their influence on prescribing, and their potential impact on consumer safety. Very little research has been conducted into the use and misuse of prescription drug samples, and the influence of samples on health policies designed to improve the rational use of medicines. This is a topical issue in the prescription drug debate, with increasing costs and increasing concerns about optimizing use of medicines. This manuscript critically evaluates the research that has been conducted to date about prescription drug samples, discusses the issues raised in the context of traditional marketing theory, and suggests possible alternatives for the future.