Free antibiotics

You've probably have heard what Wal-mart is doing with the price of prescription drugs - Rob even talked about it yesterday.

Now, to up the ante, regional stores/pharmacies are offering FREE drugs. What do I mean? In last Friday's Columbus Dispatch, there's a story talking about Mejer and Giant Eagle (regional pharmacies), in selected parts of Ohio, offering selected free antibiotics.

Don't get me wrong, you still need a prescription from a doctor (or other health profesional with prescription writing privileges - How politically correct is that?) for this. But, apparently, you bring the prescription to the pharmacy, and BANG, here's your antibiotic - now go and feel better.

From a cost standpoint, I think this is a good thing. Generic drugs are ridulously overpriced! Some of my patients have told me that rarely the name brand drug is the SAME price as the "generic."

From a patient care standpoint, I see this as a real problem. Wal-mart had the right idea, kind of, with offering some discounted chronic medicines - like blood pressure medicines and antidepressants. But, offering antibiotics?

Many studies have shown that you don't need an antibiotic every time you get a respiratory infection. And, I even admit, if I'm on the fence for a diagnosis, I err on the side of possibly a bacterial infection, and I prescribe the antibiotic.

For years, doctors have been warned to "just say no." And, we're seeing the complications of these decisions - mainly drug resistant infections.

So, docs out there, have the courage to stand your ground and explain the difference between bacterial and viral infections. And, if you're a patient, try to hold back your wrath if your doc doesn't give you that antibiotic and wants you to have the viral infection "run its course, because antibiotcs wouldn't help anyway."