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Study: Free antibiotics meant more patients filled prescriptions

Doctors have a tendency to prescribe medications for which they have free samples to give to patients, according to several previous studies. Would doctors similarly prescribe medications that patients could get for free at Wegmans?

That’s what a group of Upstate emergency medicine researchers wondered as they compared data provided by Wegmans for its pharmacies in Onondaga County. The grocery chain headquartered in Rochester offered nine generic oral antibiotics for free starting in 2009. So researchers lead by Jeremy Joslin, MD, compared 214,892 antibiotic prescriptions from the first six months of 2008 with 221,480 from the first half of 2009.

“The promotional pricing of the antibiotics had a significant impact on the number of prescriptions filled,” Joslin wrote in a study published in September in the journal, Pharmacy Practice, with colleagues Susan Wojcik, PhD and William Grant, PhD. The number of antibiotics filled that were included in the promotion increased by 13 percent, while the number filled that were excluded from the promotion decreased by 20 percent.

Joslin says to help ensure that patients fill their prescriptions, doctors should pay attention to promotional programs when appropriate.

Today, Wegmans sells many generics for $4 for a 30-day supply, and several other retail pharmacies offer similar deals.