Effects of the distribution of product samples to patients and physicians by pharmaceutical companies

Frances Lois U. Ngo, Monet M. Loquias, Mac Ardy J. Gloria


Background:  Distribution of product samples is a typical and traditional marketing and promotion strategy used by pharmaceutical companies. However, issues have been raised about their influence on physicians' prescribing behavior and patients' health outcomes.

Objectives:  This study aimed to determine the effects of the distribution of product samples on physicians' prescribing behavior and adherence to patients' treatment regimens. It also sought to provide policy recommendations on product sample distribution and the administrative order on pharmaceutical promotion.

Methodology:  The study involved a descriptive design. The study sites were Manila City, Cebu City, and Davao City. Data were collected using focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and surveys among patients and physicians. Content analysis was performed to analyze qualitative data, while descriptive statistics and measures of association were conducted to analyze quantitative data.

Results: A total of four FGDs were conducted with one FGD for each stakeholder group, and 846 patients and 286 physicians answered the study questionnaire. About half (48.0%) of the patients received product samples; 75.8% had low medication adherence. Product sample distribution was not significantly associated with patients' adherence (p=0.150). The majority of the physicians (69.2%) received product samples. There was no significant association between product sample distribution and physicians' prescribing behavior (p=0.111). It was found, however, that the distribution of product samples was significantly associated with the other physicians' prescribing behavior (p=0.009). The issues identified included the influence of medical representatives on physicians' prescribing behavior, incapacity of the poor and marginalized population to complete their treatment regimen due to lack of supply of product samples, and mentality of patients that product samples have better quality.

Conclusion: This study emphasized that the regulation of product sample distribution was justifiable since this might negatively influence professional behavior affecting rational prescribing and the use of medicines. Furthermore, the distribution of product samples did not directly translate to increased patients' medication adherence. Should the distribution of samples be continuously practiced, the provision of product samples should be strictly followed, and the distribution should be regulated and monitored to prevent the occurrence
of violative practices.


product samples; medication adherence; prescribing behavior; pharmaceutical promotion; Mexico City Principles

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Print ISSN: 2704-3517; Online ISSN: 2738-042X