ARLINGTON, Va. — The Infectious Diseases Society of America has alerted supermarket pharmacies about free antibiotic giveaways as an unhealthy promotional gimmick.
“If grocery stores want to help customers’ save money during cold-and-flu season, they should offer free influenza vaccinations instead,” IDSA advised in a press statement. ISDA noted that Giant Food, Stop & Shop and Wegmans Food Markets recently began to offer free antibiotics at their pharmacies.
“Most concerning are promotions such as Wegmans that link antibiotics to the winter cold-and-flu season — despite the fact that antibiotics will have no effect on these viral illnesses and carry risks of serious side effects,” ISDA said.
Mary Ellen Burris, senior vice president of consumer affairs, Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., acknowledged the concern from health community experts in a recent online column. She said public response to the free antibiotics program was both positive and negative.
“Positives were heartwarming from those often not able to afford a prescribed drug. Concern came from health professionals who are trying to inform patients/parents that antibiotics do nothing for most coughs and colds, except cause an ever-increasing problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In hindsight, we should have found a better phrase than ‘cough and cold season’ to describe the timing of the limited duration offer [of free antibiotics] (although honestly, we’re hard pressed to think of one even today),” she stated.
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