“Free Antibiotics” is a Dangerous Marketing Ploy

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is frowning on promotional antibiotic giveaways some chain stores are offering this cold and flu season.  According to Science Daily, the IDSA says that merchants should offer free flu inoculations instead, saying that the lure of free antibiotics is unhealthy.  Giant and Stop & Shop are among the stores offering free drugs.

Citing the unprecedented rise in antibiotic-resistant infections, Science Daily reported how many outlets, such as Wegmans, are using the cold and flu season to compel consumers to use free antibiotics even though it is a medically proven fact that antibiotics over no assistance over viral illnesses and their use carries risks.

For instance, <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/cipro">Cipro, an antibiotic in the fluoroquinolone group is used to treat bacterial infections and is linked to serious tendon injury and rupture.  Last January, consumer advocacy group Public Citizen filed a lawsuit against the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in an attempt to compel the agency to act on earlier petition requesting new warnings about the side effects of Cipro and other antibiotics, such as Levaquin, which could increase the risk of tendonitis and tendon ruptures.  At that time, Public Citizen said the FDA had received hundreds of reports of tendon rupture—most commonly Achilles tendon—and thousands of tendon disorders after using Cipro.  According to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, the tendon risks associated with fluoroquinolones have been known for close to 20 years.

Last July, the FDA finally directed Cipro’s maker to add a black box warning to its label and said that Cipro and other fluoroquinolones were linked to tendonitis and tendon ruptures.  Cipro has also been linked to TEN, Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis—also known as Lyle’s Syndrome—a sometimes fatal skin condition.

“While it may make good marketing sense, promoting antibiotics at a time when we are facing a crisis of antibiotic resistance does not make good public health sense,” said IDSA President Anne Gershon, MD.  “On the other hand, grocery stores would be doing a tremendous service if they help more people get their flu shots,” Gershon, MD added, said Science Daily.  MRSA—Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—is the leading cause of emergency room visits for skin and soft tissue infections, said ScienceDaily.  Due to increasing and ongoing use of antibiotics, the rise in resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, has become meteoric and deadly with limited treatment options.

A study in an upcoming issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases found lowered sick days in the workplace were linked to workers receiving a flu shot, said ScienceDaily, which added that, despite this, millions of doses of the shots were tossed in the past two flu seasons.  “The opposite is true for antibiotics,” said Lauri Hicks, DO, medical director for the “Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work” program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), quoted ScienceDaily.  “Each year tens of millions of antibiotics are prescribed for viral conditions, like the common cold, for which antibiotics are totally ineffective. Overuse of antibiotics is jeopardizing the effectiveness of these essential drugs,” Hicks, DO added.  Worse, adverse events associated with antibiotics results in about 142,000 emergency room visits annually, according to the CDC, said Science Daily.

Recently, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal discussed how antibiotics are being over-prescribed at alarming rates, despite their connection to rupture injury and other side effects.  Also critics of fluoroquinolone antibiotics argue that the drugs were developed and put on the fast track for FDA approval without adequate pre-market testing to accurately determine the probability of certain side effects. After gaining approval, the new antibiotics were aggressively marketed.  According to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, in 2007, U.S. patients received more than 40 million prescriptions for fluoroquinolone antibiotics.

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