I read with interest your article "Controls sought on drug samples" (Jan. 29, p. 45). I'm a practicing oncologist, hematologist and internist in Greenville, Miss. We keep large numbers of samples in our office and use them to take care of the large population of indigent patients in our practice and in our local area. I'm very concerned by those people who suggest that samples should be discontinued. The availability of samples in many cases is our ability to provide patients with antibiotics and anti-hypertensive and anti-inflammatory medicines that they otherwise would be unable to attain.
Many drug companies say they have indigent drug programs, but by the time you're able to obtain a medication the disease process is often too far advanced to do the patient any good.
The possibility of samples being dispensed from a pharmacy is certainly worth consideration. I'm concerned, however, about what pharmacy wants to be involved with dispensing medications free of charge. Such a program also requires a visit to the pharmacy, often only adding to the burden of a sick patient.
I certainly think a control program might be something that could be worked out. In this modern computer age, a way of putting prescriptions for indigent patients on a computer program should be devisable. I also believe the large amount of money pharmaceutical companies spend on unnecessary advertising gimmicks could be much better spent on samples to give to our patients who are either totally indigent or whose drug bills already are so high that their small Social Security checks are unable to cover the cost.
ROBERT P. BOWMAN, M.D.