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Drug samples may lead to costlier prescriptions

Drug samples
may lead to costlier prescriptions

Dermatologists who receive free samples of brand-name drugs are more likely to prescribe these more-expensive medications than dermatologists who don’t have access to free samples, Stanford University researchers found.

Researchers compared prescribing habits at academic medical centers that prohibit physicians from accepting pharmaceutical companies’ samples with patterns at medical centers that allow samples. They focused on medications used to treat adult acne and rosacea that were prescribed in 2001, 2005, and 2010.

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In places where samples were allowed, the most commonly prescribed medications were those that had the most samples available. Dermatologists who had access to free samples wrote prescriptions that were more than twice as costly on average as prescriptions written by dermatologists without samples, the study found. Dermatologists without access to samples prescribed generic drugs 83 percent of the time, compared with 21 percent for dermatologists with access to samples.

Many physicians may not know the cost difference between a brand-name and generic drug, and if a patient responds well to the drug sample, a physician may prescribe it without realizing the cost, the authors wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: Dermatologists who receive free samples of brand-name drugs are more likely to prescribe these more-expensive medications.

CAUTIONS: The study focused on one medical specialty and a limited number of conditions, so the findings may not reflect prescribing habits broadly.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Dermatology, April 16

Lower-income teens sleep only six hours
on school nights

High school students from low- to middle-income families might not be getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, which could contribute to poor academic performance, a new study found.

For one week, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California Berkeley tracked sleep patterns of 250 healthy public high school students from poor and middle-class families. The students kept sleep diaries while researchers measured their sleep quality, duration, and daytime sleepiness using an actigraphy sensor.

Most of the students slept an average of six hours on a school night, which is less than the eight to 10 hours recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black students and boys slept less and were more likely to wake up multiple times compared with other groups.

The researchers wrote that less sleep may be linked to behavior problems and poor functioning in school, which have been previously shown to be more common among minorities whose families have a low income.

BOTTOM LINE: High school students in low- to middle-income families might not be getting the recommended amount of sleep, which could lead to poor academic performance.

CAUTIONS: Because of the small number of participants and the short duration of the study, the findings may not apply to a wider group.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Pediatrics, April 21

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