Pediatric Freebies

Your Pediatrician

Free Formula Sample Bag
Free stuff doesn't always save you money in the long run. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

Everyone like free stuff. With the rising costs of health care, even if you have insurance, a little help with healthcare expenses is welcomed by most parents.

Although most people think of freebies as getting a coupon or free samples from your favorite store or company, your Pediatrician's office can also be a treasure trove of free stuff. The secret is asking for samples that have been left by drug representatives that are trying to get the word out to pediatricians about their products, which range from samples of acne medicines to free cans of formula.

In a busy pediatrician's office, remembering to offer free samples to parents often takes a back seat to other duties and trying to keep the office running on time. But that doesn't mean that you can't ask the doctor or nurse for a free sample. The worst they can do is say no.

So what can you get from your pediatrician besides a healthy child?

Free Infant Formula

Although pediatricians are usually only stocked with formula from the bigger manufactures, like Mead Johnson and Ross, they usually have all of the latest types of formula offered by these companies, including regular formula with iron, soy, lactose free, elemental formulas, and the new DHA and ARA enhanced formulas (Enfamil LIPIL and Similac Advance).

Asking for a sample can be especially helpful if your pediatrician is recommending that you try a different formula because of a formula intolerance or other medical problem. Does your child have reflux?

Ask for some Enfamil AR to try. Does he have a problem with a formula intolerance? Ask for an elemental formula, such as Nutramigen.

Even if your child is doing well on his current formula, you still might ask for a few cans of formula and spend the money on something else. You may also be able to get coupons for a discount when you buy formula.

For example, Mead Johnson and Ross often offer coupons that can help you save money when you buy their formula if you aren't buying a store brand formula.

Of course, don't ask for or expect formula samples when you are breastfeeding. That's a good way to sabotage your breastfeeding goals.

Antibiotics

Everyone knows that antibiotics can be expensive. Even if you have insurance, you might be stuck with a $15-45 copay, or more if the prescribed medication is not a preferred antibiotic by your insurance plan. If you are paying the full price yourself, you might be looking at paying $30-$125 for a prescription. And that is on top of the cost of the office visit.

Fortunately, the use of amoxicillin has had a resurgence. And that is good, because it works well, can now be used just twice a day, tastes great and is inexpensive. But if your child is allergic to amoxicillin or has recently been on antibiotics, you might be prescribed a different antibiotic, which will likely not be generic and will cost a lot.

While samples of antibiotics are another thing that many pediatrician's offices used to be well stocked with, most are now generic and so no longer available as samples..

Your pediatrician may have sample of topical antibiotics, such as Vigamox and Moxeza for pink-eye and Cipro-DEX for swimmers ear.

Another situation where getting a sample can be helpful is if you think it will be a while before you can get the prescription filled. If you ask for 2-3 dosages of the antibiotic, you can start your child on the medicine right away, drop off your prescription at the pharmacy and pick it up later or the next day. That beats waiting at the pharmacy with a sick child.

Samples can also be helpful if you are traveling, since you can prepare each dose individually and don't have to worry about keeping the medicine refrigerated.

Asthma and Allergy Medications

Many drug companies also supply doctors with a steady supply of asthma and allergy medicines, including Clarinex, Xyzal, Nasonex, Patanase, Flovent, Pulmicort, Advair, Xopenex, Dulera, etc.

Although you likely won't be able to get a full months supply of these medications, you may get enough for a trial of a week or two to see if the medications work before you invest in a full prescription. This is especially helpful for the allergy medications, since if you can try 2 or 3 different medications, it will be easier to see what works best for your child.

ADHD Medications

Although pediatricians don't get samples of stimulant ADHD medications, they do often get coupons that offer parents a free month's supply. Vyvanse, Daytrana, Quillivant XR, and Focalin XR all offer coupons for new patients to get a free 4 week supply of their medication. If you are starting an ADHD medication for the first time or being changed to a new medication, you might ask your pediatrician for a coupon. Keep in mind that you will still need a prescription from your pediatrician when you use the coupon for these types of medications.

Pediatricians also usually have samples of Strattera, in convenient starter packs, so they can try this new medication for ADHD as an alternative to a stimulant. Intuniv and Kapvay, other non-stimulants, are also sometimes available as samples.

Dermatology Medicines

Another type of medications that you can often get samples of from your pediatrician are those to treat skin disorders, such as acne (Epiduo), eczema, and ringworm.

Cold and Cough Medicines

Pediatricians also usually have samples of different cold and cough medicines, which may include Dimetapp, Triaminic, Pediacare, etc.

Although they are usually just little sample bottles, you might ask for a free sample if your older child has a cold and needs some symptomatic relief.

Fever Reducers

You might also be able to get free samples of pain relievers and fever reducers, such as Tylenol, Motrin and Advil. Pediatricians also often have coupons that offer discounts when you buy Tylenol, Motrin or Advil in the store.

Vaccines

OK, you are unlikely to get free vaccines from your pediatrician, but if your insurance doesn't pay for vaccines, you do have a lot of options to save money.

The easiest is to contact your local health department, as most offer low cost vaccines.

Also, many Pediatricians participate in their state's Federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program, which provides their office with free vaccines to give to children that are uninsured or underinsured. While the vaccine is free, you will likely have to pay an administration fee to your pediatrician for each shot. Contact your state health department for a list of pediatricians in your area that participate in the program if you need help paying for shots.

Online Offers

Some drug companies also offer deals online for free samples of their medications including:

  • Advair Breathe Easier Program - get a first full prescription of ADVAIR for free or if you already use ADVAIR - a $10 coupon for your next prescription for ADVAIR
  • Clarinex Cash Back - sign up for a $25 rebate on a Clarinex prescription.
  • Zyrtec Rewards - This program offers savings and benefits for ZYRTEC® (cetirizine HCl) users. Once you sign up, you could get up to $40 in rebates on 4 qualifying ZYRTEC prescriptions filled by September 30, 2007.
  • Nasonex Coupon - Print out a $15 coupon from the NASONEX® Personalized Savings Program.

A new website, The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is a 'a comprehensive one-stop link to thousands of medicines offered through hundreds of patient assistance programs sponsored by member companies, non-member companies and government and local organizations.' It can help you find free medicines or get assistance paying for your medications if you can't afford them.

Other Offers and Samples

Other samples I have recently received in my office include Nexium for acid reflux, Sklice for head lice, and Triple Paste for diaper rashes. If your pediatrician doesn't have samples of the medication you need, you might ask if you can contact a drug company and ask that they deliver some samples to your pediatrician's office that they can pass on to you.

And don't be afraid to ask for samples. Again, the worst that can happen is that your pediatrician says no. Asking for samples is especially important if you don't think you will be able to get your child's prescription filled because of the expense.

Keep in mind that getting a sample of a brand name medication could cost you more money in the long run if you also get a prescription for a more expensive brand name medication when a less expensive generic is available.

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