Wooing customers is becoming a high-stakes game in US. Publix Super Markets has started offering free 14-day supplies of seven common antibiotics at its 684 pharmacies.
All customers need is a prescription, the company said in a press release. What's more, the company is not limiting the number of prescriptions customers may fill for free.
The antibiotics are amoxicillin, cephalexin, sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (SMZ-TMP), ciprofloxacin (excluding ciprofloxacin XR), penicillin VK, ampicillin and erythromycin (excluding Ery-Tab).
The company said it won't even bill insurers, such as Medicare or private commercial policies.
''We answer the call of our customers,'' said spokeswoman Anne Hendricks. ``Publix has always been committed to the health and wellness of its customers, and this is another example of this.''
The company joins other retailers that offer discounted drug programs, including Target (TGT) and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), but Publix Super Markets officials say the company is the first large regional chain to offer certain drugs at no cost.
Wal-Mart Stores is selling a number of generic prescription drugs for $4 in hopes that it can draw more shoppers into its stores who may come for prescriptions and then stay to buy in other departments.
Publix estimates that the antibiotics account for almost 50 percent of generic and pediatric prescriptions filled at its outlets.
''We are always striving to provide our customers with service and value,'' said Dwaine Stevens, Publix media and community relations manager. ``With healthcare and prescription costs on the rise, our free prescription drug program will reinforce our commitment to the total health and wellness of our customers and their families.''
''Health and wellness is crucial to every Floridian's quality of life and paramount to the vitality of our state,'' Governor Charlie Crist said in a prepared statement. ``We appreciate great partners like Publix Super Markets working to further provide affordability and accessibility to quality prescription drugs for working families and seniors.''
Publix operates in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, secretary of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration and a pediatrician, said many of the antibiotics are prescribed for children, and he noted that Florida has 3.6 million uninsured people and many who have some insurance but no coverage for prescription drugs.
While there has been a generally positive response, there are some skeptics nevertheless.
It is nothing more than a publicity stunt, scoffed one.
The free antibiotics are all over 30 years old. Some have been rendered useless due to overprescribing doctors caving in to demanding patients who insist that "something" be given to them. 9 times out of 10 these illnesses are nothing but the common cold, he said.