NC hospital nixes drug-sample handouts

While drugmakers and the Massachusetts legislature duke it out over the "no pharma freebies" bill, a major North Carolina hospital system has told its docs not to pass on any freebies to patients. Carolinas Healthcare System's 600 physicians aren't allowed to give out drug samples anymore. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Some patients and doctors "are violently opposed," the physician network's medical director acknowledged. But, he said, the new rule is designed to protect patients, limit liability, and--drum roll, please--decrease the influence of drug companies on prescribing practices. And some doctors in the group already had banned samples and cut back on drug rep visits. "Knowingly or not, it was affecting our practice... and it probably wasn't good for our patients," one said.

As a teaching hospital, Carolinas Medical Center is hardly in the vanguard in banning drug samples. Several others have done so in recent months. One of the motives: protecting tender medical students from undue pharma influence. In the Charlotte Observer's story on the change, one hospital pharmacy director summed up one train of thought: "Who do you want them to learn from--their (faculty) or the drug company representatives?"

- see the article in the Observer