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You know, I understand the whole concept of wanting to promote good health while the economy’s in the dumper, but…

March 12, 2009, 7:46 PM

Indeed, I understand about wanting to promote good health while the economy is in the can, but I think we’ll all agree that this is probably not the way to do it:

Free antibiotics at Safeway

“Free Antibiotics at Safeway”, seen here at the Safeway store on Connecticut Avenue NW just south of the DC line, near Chevy Chase Circle. I really question how wise this promotion is. The store manager was the one working the checkout, and she handed me a slip of paper with my receipt describing the promotion. Basically, through March 31, Safeway will give up to a 14-day supply of various commonly-prescribed generic antibiotics, with prescription, for free, with the use of your Safeway card. They list some of the antibiotics in question as bullet points: Amoxicillin, Bacitracin, Ciprofloxacin, Penicillin, SMZ/TMP, “and more”, with a note that a complete list is available from the pharmacist.

So you may be wondering, what’s so bad about this? Well, I’ll tell you. Basically, it’s encouraging the misuse of antibiotics by offering them up for free. Note that I’m not saying abuse, but rather misuse. To me, abuse assumes bad faith on the part of the user, deliberately using the drug wrongly to get a certain effect. Misuse, on the other hand, assumes that the person is acting in good faith, but more often than not doesn’t have a clue, and is misusing the drug because they don’t know any better.

And the reason misuse of antibiotics is bad is because it helps create bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, requiring the development of newer, stronger drugs to combat the hardier bacteria. If you don’t believe in evolution, this will set you straight, as natural selection rears its ugly head. Basically, the strongest bacteria survive, thrive, and multiply, and grow up to be resistant to the antibiotic. It’s nature doing its thing, and ensuring the survival of the fittest. And because of this, the fittest bacteria basically scoff at the antibiotic, making it necessary for drug companies to develop new drugs that work against the hardier strains. And in the battle between the bacteria and the drugs, someone is going to win, and I fear it might very well be the bacteria that will come out on top.

And thus the free antibiotics. Making a two-week antibiotic supply free encourages the use of more antibiotics, and runs a big risk of people asking their doctors for antibiotics when they may not need them because it costs them less due to the promotion. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, and so if a patient has a virus, antibiotics won’t do a lick of good. The patient with a viral infection could probably get the same result by spreading mayonnaise on their chest rather than using an antibiotic against a virus. In fact, spreading mayonnaise on one’s chest might just be more beneficial than a misplaced antibiotic, because you’re not going to create colonies of resistant bacteria by doing it, and I’ve read that mayonnaise makes a lovely beauty mask.

So all in all, first off, I would like to say shame on Safeway for running this promotion that, while I’m sure their intentions are good, may do more harm than good in the long run. If Safeway ran a promotion promising a free 14-day supply for any generic drug and not just antibiotics, I might view their promotion in the good light it was intended. Right now, their promotion is lopsided, and encourages misuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics can be highly beneficial if used correctly, but very harmful in the long run if used incorrectly.

Web site: More about antibiotic resistance from the FDA

Song: The Tao of Antibiotic Resistance

Quote: And also, the store manager at Safeway thanked me by name for shopping at Safeway after she finished ringing me up. She said, "Thank you, Mr. Schumin, for shopping with us today," as she handed me my receipt. I had never met this woman before in my life, and it will likely be a very long time before our paths cross again, because that Safeway is very much out of the way from where I live and work, but I was out running a work-related errand and needed to get something there. But when a store employee, manager or not, where I'm not a regular customer and whom I've never met before thanks me by name, especially when they're just reading it off the receipt, it's kind of creepy, especially when I loathe things like loyalty cards because I see it as something of an invasion of privacy. The store really doesn't need to know that I personally am buying, say, a can of corn and a frozen pizza on Wednesday, and three pounds of potatoes on Friday. This is why I try to shop at stores that don't have such programs. Among other things, I refuse to get a CVS card on principle alone. I should organize a store-card swap or something just to confuse the situation a bit and maintain privacy. I've also been known to falsify information on loyalty card applications from time to time as well...

Categories: Advertising, Safeway