Patients asking for drug samples by name

March 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

More consumers are asking their doctors for prescription drug samples by name, and getting them.

More consumers are asking their doctors for prescription drug samples by name, and getting them, according to research by Uniondale, NY-based Ipsos PharmTrends, which tracks consumer purchase behavior for both prescription and nonprescription drugs. The study also found that patients who receive samples are more likely to fill prescriptions for these brands than consumers who do not ask their doctors for samples. The survey looked at the change from January to June 2001 to January to June 2002.

"Consumers are not only requesting prescriptions for advertised, brand-name drugs, they've also become savvy enough to request samples from their doctors," said Fariba Zamaniyan, director and spokesperson of Ipsos PharmTrends. "Direct-to-consumer advertising by major pharmaceutical drug manufacturers has done a good job in raising disease awareness and brand recognition among targeted patient populations. As a result, patients are asking for drugs by their brand name, whether it be for a sample or a prescription."

Increased sample requests

Across the leading DTC drug classes, a quarter to a third of sample recipients requested the prescription drug sample received. With the exception of the proton pump inhibitor drug class and COX-2 inhibitors, the leading DTC drug classes experienced double-digit growth in patient requests for samples.

The study found that:

• The number of asthma patients requesting a free sample grew 36%. This increase was driven by the introduction of Advair® (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder), manufactured by Research Triangle Park, NC-based GlaxoSmithKline.

• The oral antihistamine segment also experienced double-digit growth in the number of consumer requests for samples (up 22%) due to the launch of Clarinex® (desloratadine), manufactured by Kenilworth, NJ-based Schering-Plough Corp., and the significant level of competitive response to fend off potential switches.

• Statins posted the highest level of consumer/patient requests for samples as a result of extensive free-trial offers and sample promotions launched by competing statin brands such as New York-based Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor® (atorvastatin calcium) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Pravachol® (pravastatin sodium) following the recall of West Haven, CT-based Bayer Corp.'s Baycol® (cerivastatin) from the market.

• The proton pump inhibitor segment's decline in sample requests in 2002 follows heavy promotional activity during the launch of Wilmington, DE-based AstraZeneca LP's Nexium™ (esomeprazole magnesium) in 2001, which has since subsided and resulted in double-digit growth in the number of requests for a prescription instead.

Do samples equal prescriptions?

Whether consumers who requested samples went on to fill a prescription depended on drug class and need. Among consumers who ask for free samples of the top DTC spending drugs, between one-quarter and one-half actually go on to fill the script for the drug.

"Promoting sample requests in DTC messaging has proven to be an effective strategy to promote brand awareness and generate trial across the leading DTC spending drug classes and brands," stated Zamaniyan. "However, drug manufacturers need to continually monitor the ability to convert trial via sample receipt to script fulfillment over time. There is a danger that exists with over-sampling within certain therapeutic classes such as allergy treatment. Script fulfillment within this category can be delayed, resulting in lost sales as patients are enabled to treat their symptoms with the sample supply received from their doctors." PR

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