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Product samples

Every day, product samples from different “cosmeceuticals” manufacturers are distributed in doctors’ surgeries and clinics.

Cosmeceuticals, a term newly coined from the words “cosmetics” and “pharmaceuticals”, contain the maximum possible concentration of active substances permitted before the product is classed as a medicinal product. As a result, they have a higher efficacy profile than conventional care products. 

While these products do make it possible to offer patients several skin care alternatives, they are also problematic for the environment and add a cost factor for the surgery.

The environmental factor

Frequently, boxes packaged in plastic film are delivered that contain several samples and in some cases recommendation pads. Each mini-outer package contains a small tube that usually consists of two different types of plastic (cap and tube). Many of the product samples contain a maximum of 5 to 7 ml; in some cases the contents are a mix with microplastic of varying chemical composition. Some contain substances suspected as endocrine disruptors, for example or of being toxic to aquatic organisms. The energy-intensive production of the plastic tubes also causes the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to be released.

It can be assumed that on any given day, thousands of samples are distributed to patients by doctors of various specialisations as well as pharmacists. Not all samples are tried by patients. What is more, many of the tubes and sachets remain in the surgery and clinic cupboards beyond their expiry dates and medical staff must sort through and discard them. The various types of packaging are probably rarely separated by surgeries or by consumers, which prevents the recovery of recyclable plastics at waste processing plants. Consequently, in Germany alone, several tonnes of waste requiring incineration accumulate every day from product samples. We can also assume that some of the samples enter the environment as a result of excursions or travel, or are disposed of in countries that do not have a suitable waste disposal or recycling system.

The cost factor

In rented properties, product samples take up storage space and thus occupy usable areas that generate rental costs. They necessitate work by medical staff in the form of accepting deliveries, storage, sorting and disposal. The resulting ongoing use of working time is then no longer available to a surgery, clinic or pharmacy for other tasks, but staff must still be remunerated. In addition, the amount of waste generated increases hugely as a result of product samples and outer packaging. Since in most local authorities and towns the fees for refuse are based on the volume of waste that arises, this is reflected in the costs payable.


© Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Susanne Saha 06/2021

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