A Message from David R. Maizel, M.D., President, Sentara Medical Group
Beginning April 1, 2012, all Sentara Medical Group practices will stop providing medication samples. We've heard some concerns about this change and appreciate the opportunity to talk to our patients and the community about why we made this important decision -- and how we will continue working with patients to provide the best solution for their long-term prescription needs.
Sentara Medical Group is adopting a national trend supported by several national associations including the American Medical Association. We are committed to providing our patients affordable medications that can be taken for the long term. Since medication samples are always for branded drugs and not generic drugs, the samples set up a cycle in which the patient spends more for a branded drug instead of a generic drug. Generic drugs have the same intended use, dosage and effects with reduced costs for patients.
In the event that a branded medication is your best option, we may provide you with a patient voucher provided by pharmaceutical companies to get you started. These vouchers provide a starter prescription at no cost to the patient that is filled by pharmacies, which is the best way to ensure patient safety in the event of a recall or other concern related to the prescription. For patients who need long term prescription assistance, we will connect them with pharmaceutical prescription assistance programs. Our physicians may seek exceptions to the policy on a case-by-case basis.
Please refer to these Frequently Asked Questions for additional details about this policy.
Why is Sentara Medical Group discontinuing the use of medication samples?
We are committed to providing our patients affordable medications that can be taken for the long term. Samples have not been the solution for this.
Medication samples are always branded medications – which cost patients more than the generic equivalent when they fill the prescription. Patients who receive a prescription for a generic medication, which is equal to the brand-name medication in quality and function, save money not just immediately, but over the long-term course of taking that medication. There is a growing national movement to stop providing medication samples and focus on prescribing generic medications. Our providers will treat your conditions with medications that work and are affordable as well.
Can I get a sample to try out a new medication?
We make every effort to prescribe generic medications because they are equal to the brand-name medications and will save patients money. Many national chain pharmacies are covering generics for as low as $4 a month. For this reason, it should not cost much to try out new medications. If you are trying a new medication and prefer a short-term prescription, your provider can give you a prescription for just one to two weeks of the medication.
What if I need the brand version of a medication?
Most conditions can be treated with generic medications. We do understand that some patients may need brand medications to appropriately treat their conditions. In the event that a branded medication is your best option, we may provide you with a patient voucher provided by pharmaceutical companies to get you started. These vouchers provide a starter prescription at no cost to the patient that is filled by pharmacies, which is the best way to ensure patient safety in the event of a recall or other concern related to the prescription.
For long term assistance, we will help patients connect with pharmaceutical prescription assistance programs.
Prescription assistance programs
In the event that you can’t afford to pay for your medication, please ask to talk to an Sentara Medical Group financial counselor for assistance. The financial counselors have information on connecting you to the pharmaceutical patient assistance programs. These programs provide better support than free samples because they enroll eligible patients in long-term programs that provide patient support in addition to free or reduced prescriptions. For more information about these patient assistance programs, please refer to the RxAssist website at http://www.rxassist.org/.
Always take your medications correctly
It is important to take the medications you need every day and at the prescribed dosage to best manage your health and prevent complications. We believe this new policy will help us work together to do a better job of accomplishing this goal.
If you’d like additional background on the topic, there are excellent resources available on this topic online – including but not limited to:
Institute of Medicine Calls for Doctors to Stop Taking Gifts from Drug Makers
Free Drug Samples? Bad idea, Some Say
Aurora Bans Doctors from Giving Free Drug Samples
Doctors Ditch Drug Samples to Avoid Influencing Treatment
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