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Flu shots are not “free”

December 2, 2014

Patients may not have to pay out of pocket for a flu shot, but that does not mean the services are free. Advertising them as such has two negative repercussions.

What’s wrong with using “free”?   

  1. It violates the Pharmacy and Drug Regulation. Section 24(1)(a) of the Pharmacy and Drug Regulation stipulates that, “A licensee and a proprietor must ensure that advertising in relation to a licensed pharmacy is not false or misleading.” If a third party – in this case, Alberta Health – is paying for the service, it is not free and patients should be aware that there is a cost to the province. Using “no charge” more accurately reflects the situation.
  2. It potentially devalues the professional expertise pharmacists provide. Done properly, immunizations involve pharmacists’:
  • Skills in assessment and administering drugs by injection;
  • Knowledge of medications and potential interactions; and
  • Time to review and interpret appropriate information (e.g., Netcare), document, and collaborate with other members of the patient’s health team.

Not instilling in patients that professional services require knowledge and skills and have great worth does a disservice to the profession.

Originally published in the December 2, 2014 issue of The Link