Safe Practices for Providing Sample Medications in Your Office - A Four-Part Blog Series

Over the course of four weeks we will cover sample medication topics in a four-part blog series. Topics will cover areas including responsibly receiving sample medications from pharmaceutical representatives and safely storing and monitoring medication samples.

“First In, First Out” (FIFO) and “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) are inventory management terms which are applied in many areas we encounter each day. However, you may not realize that these terms are also important to your medical practice.

You experience the application of FIFO and LIFO every time you visit a grocery store. For example, when milk is stocked at your local market, the cartons which will be expiring sooner are put up front (they were the “first in”). Being in the front of the case, they will hopefully be the “first out” by being purchased by the consumer. Supermarkets call this a “rotation of stock”. 

In your practice, when it comes to the sample medications closet, while LIFO may seem easier, you should utilize FIFO. This way, samples with the furthest out expiration dates will be stocked behind samples with expiration dates in the near future.

Stocking your samples closet in a FIFO order is only one part of the responsibility of offering sample medications to patients. For that reason, we are breaking down tips on this important topic in a four part blog series.

Over the course of four weeks, beginning today, we will cover the following sample medication topics:

  1. Responsibly Receiving Sample Medications from Your Pharmaceutical Representatives
  2. Safely Storing and Monitoring Medication Samples
  3. Prudently Distributing Sample Medications to Patients
  4. Appropriately Disposing of Sample Medications

As is always good practice: check with your local medical association and/or pharmacy board as to specific requirements for storing and dispensing sample medications in your state.

Part One:  Responsibly Receiving Sample Medications from Your Pharmaceutical Representatives

Providing sample medications can be a helpful way to get financially strapped patients quickly on their way to better health. However, just as providing samples can be a positive proposition, there are inherent risks of which you should be aware.

It would be short sided to think that the only risks associated with sample medications are to patients – in reality, the risks span from patients to staff members. 

For example, a Physicians Practice article illustrated the issue of samples being considered a “job perk” by office staff.

It should be noted that once a practice decides to provide sample medications, the responsibility of doing it properly, with controls in place, falls on the provider. 

Sample medication tips to consider:

Pharmaceutical representatives must be accompanied by office staff at all times when accessing the storage area for medication samples.

  • Don’t allow representatives to overstock your sample medications
  • Only accept those medications which you will use
  • Don’t accept medications with an imminent expiration date
  • Don’t accept medications by mail from representatives
  • Don’t allow representatives to leave any samples unattended while at your office

Assign one individual to oversee the sample medication storage area and be the liaison with the pharmaceutical representatives.

  • It should be this individual’s responsibility to keep the sample medications stocked, rotated and checked for expiration dates.

Maintain a log of all sample medications received which includes:

  • Name of medication
  • Quantity and strength of dosages
  • Lot number
  • Expiration date
  • Date delivered and by who it was received
  • Pharmaceutical company name and representative name
    • Logs can easily be created and stored in a spreadsheet such as Excel. This will give you the ability to quickly sort and find information.

Keep an eye out for part two of our sample medication blog series – Safely Storing and Monitoring Medication Samples – which will be published next week.