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Executive Summary

PROSCAR 30-DAY STARTER PACKS are being made available by Merck to physicians to initiate treatment with finasteride, the recently-approved product for benign prostatic hyperplasia ("The Pink Sheet" June 29, p. 6). Merck explained that physicians can request "Patient Starter Kits for Proscar" that will include a 30- day supply of the drug, a disease information brochure and an enrollment card for the patient to fill out. While the first batch of Proscar will be provided by the company through the physician as a free sample, patients will use redeemable coupons to obtain subsequent free supplies from pharmacists. Merck will compensate pharmacists for filling the complimentary certificates by replacing the dispensed drugs. The replacements will be delivered directly by Merck to the pharmacies. After six months of enrollment, each patient in the program will receive a certificate for a second free 30-day supply of Proscar. That free supply will coincide with the end of the six- month trial period necessary in most cases to determine the effectiveness of finasteride for individual patients. Additional certificates will follow every 12 months through the duration of the program. Merck has pledged that the support program will last "at least through early 1995." Merck appears to be using the sampling program to develop a valuable database on middle-aged men. The starter packs are part of a broader patient communication effort for Proscar called the Patient Support Program. The introductory complimentary supply is being offered "to build awareness of the Patient Support Program at the outset" and will last until the end of 1992, Merck says. During "the remainder of the Program," brochures and enrollment cards "will also be made available separately to physicians." Several of the follow-on components of the Patient Support Program are designed to enhance the company-patient relationship. Merck expects to collect mailing information from patients who send enrollment cards to the company. Participating patients will then receive a "bi-monthly health information newsletter" produced by Rodale Press, the publishers of Prevention Magazine, Merck said. Merck also will send patients "compliance aids," such as a wallet-sized card on which to check that the daily dose has been taken and a single unit container that holds a week's supply of the drug. These aids are tools to help older patients and patients taking several medications to remember to take the appropriate drugs on a daily basis, the company explained.

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