Ask a Practice Advisor: Providing Drug Samples

In response to questions about the provision of drug samples, the SRNA has solicited further legal review and consultations with members and other stakeholders on the following question:

Q: Can an RN or RN(NP) provide or administer a drug sample to a client?

The Food and Drug Act of Canada states that “no person shall distribute or cause to be distributed any drug as a sample” with the exception of “the distribution, under prescribed conditions . . .of samples of drugs to physicians, dentists, veterinary surgeons or pharmacists” [14(1), 14(2)].

This means that samples can be received from pharmaceutical companies by any of the four health care provider groups listed in the Act, when certain conditions are met. The legislation further describes the conditions for management of samples, including required documentation such as lot numbers. This facilitates swift action if required (for example, during a recall of any drug). The records must be kept by the pharmaceutical company for two years. The legislation is silent about what must occur after appropriate distribution of drug samples from pharmaceutical companies.

So, can an RN, RN(AAP) or RN(NP) provide or administer a drug sample to a client? Yes, provided that proper medication management principles are adhered to consistent with the nursing process.

Additionally:

  • RN(NP)s can prescribe and dispense drug samples if they have been received by designated persons defined by the legislation. RN(NP)s are not currently one of the designated recipients of drug samples from pharmaceutical companies.
  • RN(AAP)s can prescribe, dispense and administer drug samples that have been appropriately received, if the drugs are used for limited common medical disorders and are contained in the applicable clinical decision tools.

Employer policies which describe processes for managing drug samples, including a statement that indicates that drug samples are being made available to RNs, RN(AAP)s and RN(NP)s for their normal practice, is required. The policy should indicate that the provision of a drug sample does not change the RN, RN(AAP) or RN(NP) practice standards established by the SRNA.

If there are questions about drug samples in your practice setting, contact a practice advisor at 1-800-667-9945 or 306-359-4200, or by email at practiceadvice@srna.org.

Federal legislation provides pharmaceutical companies the ability to provide samples of some prescription medications to authorized professionals under federal legislation. Once samples have been appropriately received and managed, RNs, RN(AAP)s and RN(NP)s may provide drug samples to clients through a client specific order or a medical directive.

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