Medication samples

Pharmaceutical representatives often leave medication samples at the clinic where I work as a nurse. Can I provide a medication sample to clients?

Under federal law, medication samples can only be distributed to physicians, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians.

If physicians, pharmacists or dentists in your practice setting are accepting medication samples, it should be clear that they are making those medications available to nurses to provide to clients. This can be achieved in various ways; for example, through a policy that states nurses can provide those samples to clients.

As with any medication practice, nurses must use their knowledge, skill and judgment to assess whether the medication sample is appropriate for the client. The primary purpose of a medication sample is to market a product; therefore, nurses using samples in their practice should consider whether their use presents any ethical issues. Nurses should not provide the medication to clients unless they have confidence that it is ‘fit for use’ – for example, that it was appropriately stored, and is not expired.

Nurses should advocate for a clear policy in their practice setting about how medication samples are accepted, stored and used in the provision of care to support safe ethical care for clients. Review the Medication practice standard to ensure that you comply with College standards on medication practices.

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Page last reviewed March 25, 2015