Free Samples of Medicine May Not Be Problem-Free


Medicines are costly. So it's no surprise that most people are thankful when they leave the doctor's office with a bagful of medicine samples. Of course, doctors don't have samples of every medicine.They only have samples of certain medicines that drug companies decide to offer, hoping to boost sales. But when your doctor wants you to try a new medicine, he may be able to give you a small supply of samples to take home. This way, he can make sure that you tolerate the medicine and that it's working as expected before you have to pay for a prescription.

Samples may save you a trip to the pharmacy, too. But unfortunately, there are also a few hidden dangers that you should know about when taking sample medicines. When your doctor gives you samples, he or she may tell you how much of the medicine to take and how often to take it. But may not write down the instructions. If they do, most likely they'll write the instructions on a piece of paper, not on the label of your sample medicine. If you don't keep the instructions with your samples, you may easily forget how much medicine to take.

If you get your medicine from a pharmacy, your pharmacist will double check that it's safe for you to take. You'll get a leaflet about your medicine to read. Your prescription bottle will be labeled with instructions on how to take the medicine, along with any special instructions, like take on an empty stomach. Most pharmacies also have a computer program that your pharmacist can use to: check that you are not allergic to the medicine or any of its ingredients, check that the dose is safe for you, and make sure that there are no bad effects from taking this medicine along with your other medicines.

If you get sample medicine from your doctor's office, there's no pharmacist involved. Often, there's no leaflet about your medicine to read. Your samples may not be labeled with directions on how to take the medicine. Your doctor may not have the help of a computer program to double check your medicine. Instead, he may have to rely on his memory about you and your medicine when deciding whether the sample medicine is safe for you to take. That's not to say that your doctor will make a mistake. But when it comes to medicine, it's always best to have both your doctor and pharmacist involved.

Find out how long you should take the medicine, and what to do when the samples run out. Ask your doctor about side effects of the medicine and what to do if you experience them. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about allergies you have to foods and medicines. Ask your doctor for written information about your medicine. If he has none, ask your pharmacist for a leaflet on the medicine the next time you go to the pharmacy. Tell your pharmacist if you have been taking sample medicines when you have prescriptions filled. Keep sample medicines away from children. Samples do not come in child-resistant packages.

Created on December 1, 2011

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