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Steve Chiotakis: In this time of colds and flu, the best medicine for grocery chains seems to be good public relations. And that means handing out free antibiotics. In the last week, East Coast chains Giant and Stop ‘n Shop announced offers for free generic prescriptions. Southeast chain Publix has been doling out no-cost antibiotics for more than a year. Health experts say while it may sound healthy, it could be a formula for later trouble. Here’s Sarah Gardner.
Sarah Gardner: Giant said it started handing out free antibiotics after customers told them they were struggling to make ends meet. But retail analysts say these stores also want to attract more business in a tough market.
Supermarket consultant Bill Bishop:
Bill Bishop: Wal-Mart and others were doing the $4 generic offer. I think this is just raising the ante.
But health experts sound a warning. Patients often think antibiotics will cure anything.
Infectious disease expert Sara Cosgrove at Johns Hopkins says free antibiotics makes them even more attractive to the patient.
Sara Cosgrove: Doctors much like parents often have trouble saying no to a request for antibiotics.
Experts worry about rising resistance to antibiotics. Cosgrove says there’s no evidence that these free drugs have resulted in increased prescriptions. But the Infectious Diseases Society of America urges stores to hand out a little antibiotic education along with that free penicillin.
I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.
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