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Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Volume 62, n° 6
pages 1053-1061 (juin 2010)
Doi : 10.1016/j.jaad.2009.07.053
accepted : 9 July 2009

Drug samples in dermatology: Special considerations and recommendations for the future

Ali Alikhan, MD a, , Mary Sockolov, BS a, Robert T. Brodell, MD b, c, d, Steven R. Feldman, MD e
a University of California at Davis, School of Medicine, Sacramento, California 
b Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Rootstown, Ohio 
c Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 
d University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 
e Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 

Reprint requests: Ali Alikhan, MD, 3605 Paseo Primario, Calabasas, CA 91302.

See related commentary on page 1062


The use of drug samples is a controversial issue in medicine.


We sought to determine the pros and cons of drug sampling, and how drug sampling in general medicine differs from dermatology.


Literature searches were conducted on PubMed, Google, and Yahoo!. Articles were found pertaining to drug sampling in general, and for dermatology specifically.


Numerous pros and cons for drug sampling were found in the literature search. We divided these by cost-related issues, such as the industry-wide cost of sampling and the use of sampling to assist the underinsured and poor, and quality of care issues, such as adherence, patient education, and safety considerations. Articles also suggested that dermatology may differ from general medicine as topical treatments have fewer side effects, are more complicated to use, and come in different vehicles.


We identified few studies specifically focused on issues relevant to sampling in dermatology.


There are strong arguments for and against drug sampling involving both cost and quality of care issues. Dermatology-specific medications clearly differ from oral medications in several regards. We ultimately conclude that the benefits of drug sampling outweigh the risks, but give recommendations on how drug sampling can be done ethically and effectively, including limiting personal use, not selling samples, properly documenting sample release, teaching patients about proper use, teaching students and residents ethical use of samples, working with pharmaceutical representatives in an ethical manner, prescribing the drug that is best for the patient, and securing samples appropriately to prevent theft and misuse.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Key words : drugs, industry, pharmaceuticals, samples, sampling

Abbreviations used : AMA, CMI, MeSH, PhRMA

 The first two authors contributed equally to the article.
 Funding sources: None.
 Disclosure: Dr Brodell has received research, speaking, and/or consulting support from Allergan, Janssen, Pfizer, Novartis, Squib, Galderma, 3M/Graceway, Sirius, Medicis, Amgen, Dusa, UpJohn, Connetics, GlaxoSmithKline, Dermik, Genentech, CollagGenex, Pedinol, Stiefel, Aventis, Doak, and OrthoNeutrogena; he dispenses drug samples in his practice. Dr Feldman has received research, speaking, and/or consulting support from Abbott, Amgen, Arcutis, Astellas, Aventis, Caremark, Centocor, Doak, Galderma, Genentech, Kikakua, Merck, Merz, National Biological Corp, Novartis, Peplin, Photomedex, Skin Medica, Stiefel, Suncare Research, and Warner Chilcott; The Center for Dermatology Research at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is funded by a grant from Galderma Laboratories LP; he dispenses drug samples in his practice. Dr Alikhan and Ms Sockolov have no conflicts of interest to declare.

© 2010  American Academy of Dermatology, Inc.@@#104156@@
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