“Free” Baby Vitamin D Samples: I should have known. There is no such thing as free. Buy Carlson instead.
January 26, 2020
About 5 years ago, I had attended the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) meeting when it was in our region. If you have ever been to a professional medical conference, you know that the Exhibit Halls are a frenzy of free giveaways and well dressed and good-looking pharmaceutical salespeople waving you over to their booths with enticements of free samples and free bags. They are always smiling and talking to us with perfectly white and straight teeth. I often worry during those sales pitches and think, “Gosh did I floss today? I should whiten my teeth more.”
I knew enough about the hard-sell tactics to say no to 99.9% of the free samples. But they quickly ask for your badge and they scan it sometimes before you have a chance to think again. And before you know it – random boxes start arriving at your home or office. Again, I thought I had been smart and avoided about 99.9% of those booths. The one product I had been okay with was Baby Vitamin D drops for breastfeeding mothers. As you know, Dr. Plastic Picker recommends breastfeeding https://drplasticpicker.com/dr-plastic-pickers-thoughts-on-breastfeeding-frenotomies-and-formula/.
After that conference five years ago, they began sending many small free samples to my address, and it was nice to hand out a few bottles to patients for “free.” I was trying to encourage breastfeeding mothers in my practice to actually give those drops. One small plastic sample bottle contained a 15 day supply of vitamin D 400 IU/per drop a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supplementing breastfeeding babies with vitamin D 400 IU a day. I would sometimes hand out 2-3 sample plastic bottles, thinking I was being sly and generous. I thought I was outsmarting those pharmaceutical companies. I would also tell the patients, “I don’t recommend this brand. Any brand is fine.”
The company would send me reminder emails asking me if I was still recommending their products and how many more samples did I need for the office. Again, I thought I was being sly and asked for more than I needed and handed out more to patients and never endorsing the specific product. Then regularly every 2 months an email reminder would come without fail, and I would reply. I should have known. I have been hoodwinked. There is no such thing as a “FREE” and this 5 years of “FREE” samples was costing patients and the earth. Because really, if I was handing out this product, I was giving my tacit endorsement right? And probably at least some patients were buying this brand and not the one stocked at our pharmacy.
This name-brand vitamin D 400 IU drops for babies comes in the same size plastic bottle (15 doses) as the one you buy at the store (180 doses). That plastic bottle can’t be recycled afterwards because it is way too small. I just realized that the name-brand vitamin D 400 IU drops cost $16.99 for a bottle of 180 doses. That is $0.09 a dose. And will cost a family $34 for the year.
The Carlson Vitamin D drops which they sell at our pharmacy or you can get on-line is $9.68 for 365 drops which is $0.02 a dose and only 1 plastic bottle and will cost a family $9.68 for the year. If I gave enough “FREE” samples, it it 24 little plastic bottles that cannot be recycled. A patient actually alerted me to this when they showed me how affordable the Carlson Vitamin D drops were.
So @drplasticpicker is changing. One of my families has helped me help the environment. I have another email from the name-brand vitamin D company that reads
“Dear Healthcare Provider,
I am following up on the XXX samples that we have been sending to your practice. Please let me know if you require additional Baby Ddrops 400I IU or Booster Ddrops 600 IU Vitamin D samples and/or brochures (English/ Spanish). Our records indicate that your delivery address is XXX:
If you could kindly let me know how many samples you have on hand, I can customize an order for you.
I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards,”
Oh, and I forgot all those paper brochures that they send that I usually just toss in the recycling. But really those brochures are all glossy so probably can’t be recycled anyway. Okay, now I realize that those samples are not “FREE” and were increasing our plastic pollution and costing my patients money! Plus I had to reply to that same email message six times a year, and open those boxes and waste my time deciding which patients I should give the “Free Samples” to. While composing this blog post, my path became very clear. I sent a reply back
I just reviewed with my supervisor and I’m not allowed to receive anymore samples. Thank you for all your help over the years.” Signed my real name but really feeling aka drplasticpicker.
Little did they know, I am my own supervisor. I just never had the time to really think about the true cost to the earth in all those little plastic sample bottles and the cost to my patients, really $0.02 a dose with the generic and more than quadruple the cost for the name brand at $0.09 a dose and all those little plastic sample bottles. But there is no use having regrets. I have made the change that is better for me, my patients and the earth. Moving on with life and learning from my past mistakes. Pediatricians, beward those “Free Samples.”