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Infectious Diseases Society of America urges pharmacies to educate consumers on antibiotics


ARLINGTON, Va. The Infectious Diseases Society of America on Wednesday reached out to several supermarket pharmacies offering free antibiotics to their customers, urging the pharmacies to join "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work," a campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to educate consumers about the importance of using antibiotics appropriately.

The letters were addressed to Wegmans, ShopRite, Stop and Shop and Giant, and suggested that supermarkets could educate their consumers on appropriate use of antibiotics with CDC's easy-to-understand posters, brochures and other educational materials.


“As influenza season shifts into high gear, with 24 states now reporting widespread activity, the nation's infectious diseases experts are urging supermarket pharmacies with free-antibiotics promotions to educate their customers on when antibiotics are the right prescription — and when they can do more harm than good,” IDSA stated.

Even though many of the pharmacies dispense the antibiotics at no cost to the customer, the drugs are still only available with a doctor’s prescription.

"Taking an antibiotic when you don't need it won't help you, and may in fact do more harm than good," commented IDSA president Anne Gershon. "At a time when antibiotic overuse is helping to create drug-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and few new antibiotics are being developed, supermarkets need to be responsible in how they promote antibiotics."

Several grocery store chains nationwide began offering free antibiotics this winter. Some are linking the promotion to cold and flu season, despite the fact that antibiotics do not work against these viral illnesses, IDSA noted. Furthermore, antibiotics can have serious side effects, and their misuse is contributing to the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Studies show many people believe that antibiotics can cure a cold or the flu, and tend to ask or pressure their clinicians to provide them.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are prescribed antibiotics for these conditions, even though they will do no good and can be harmful. A recent study in Clinical Infectious Diseases estimates that antibiotics are responsible for 142,000 emergency department visits each year, mostly because of allergic reactions.

"Supermarkets have the power to protect their customers' health," commented Lauri Hicks, medical director of CDC's "Get Smart" program. "If they sought to educate people about when antibiotics work and when they don't, they would be doing a great public service."

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