If you can’t take the heat, get out of Wal-Mart’s way

Well it was only a couple days ago that Publix was looking good: providing free antibiotics to its patients. Now it looks like the whole thing may have been a pretext to extricate itself from an informal policy of matching Wal-Mart’s $4 generic pricing. According to Publix:

We never had a matching program, but in the spirit of customer service, we did honor the $4 scripts when asked by customers.

That will now end. According to Lori Parham, director for the AARP in Florida:

The long-term drugs that people take for chronic conditions may now be difficult to afford. Antibiotics are for short-term use, and there’s real concern nationally that people are overusing…

Piling on, Georges Benjamin from the American Public Health Association said:

We’re going to send a letter to the FDA and let them know that while these things will improve access, they need to be monitored to ensure there aren’t any negative side effects. If people’s utilization is inappropriate and grows because it’s free … we do run the risk of increased antibiotic resistance.

I thought of this point when I wrote the original post, but didn’t bother to mention it. I don’t think it’s fair to accuse Publix of promoting the overuse of antibiotics. These are prescription drugs, remember? Doctors need to control access and refuse to prescribe when it’s inappropriate. Does Benjamin really believe that the way to reduce antibiotic resistance is to discriminate against people who can’t afford to pay for what they’ve been prescribed?

August 9, 2007

One thought on “If you can’t take the heat, get out of Wal-Mart’s way”

  1. There’s doctor and patient responsibility involved. Antibiotics are not a recreational drug, but I can imagine situations, particularly families, where people would ask for the drug as a “precaution” or something of that nature. I could envision a dual system in which a drug could have two methods of payment: If a physicians recommends it, insurance should pay. If a physicians mentions it as an option, but not a necessary one, or the patient asks for the drug, it seems rather reasonable to ask that patient to pay more. But denying people who need antibiotics the proper medicine seems unnecessarily cruel in such a country.


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