Abbott Under Fire For Free Baby Formula Samples

Abbott Under Fire For Free Baby Formula Samples

April 11th, 2012 // 12:37 pm @

Source: Pharmalot

Once again, Abbott Laboratories is under microscope for marketing its infant formula to new moms. In the latest episode, some 100 consumer groups have written more than 2,600 US hospitals to say samples should not be included in discharge bags given to new mothers because the practice is “unethical and violates good public health policy.” An online petition was also created to generate public support to demand an end to the distribution.

The move comes after Abbott was widely criticized last year for a couple of missteps. One involved mailing a survey to new moms about breastfeeding and the use of infant formula, and the source was a non-existent entity that turned out to be… Abbott. At the same time, Abbott was tagged for paying mommy bloggers to review its Similac formula (see here and here).

However, Abbott is not the only maker of infant formula that is being criticized for distributing samples. Nestle, which sells Gerber, and Mead Johnson, which sells Enfamil, are also named in the letter and petition being circulated by Public Citizen along with the American Academy of Nursing, the American Public Health Association, Consumers Union, the National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, among others.

“There is overwhelming consensus among all major health professional organizations regarding the health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies and the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Hospital promotion of infant formula through dissemination of these discharge bags contravenes this consensus, needlessly and inexcusably harming babies and families. Moreover, formula feeding imposes a significant burden on the nation’s economy. Breastfeeding saves families and the economy countless dollars,” they wrote to the hospitals.

“When hospitals distribute formula samples, they participate in the marketing efforts of formula companies at the expense of patients. Moreover, by distributing samples, they imply that these products are medically approved and recommended. Yet, there is ample evidence that formula samples reduce breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. Multiple studies have shown that women who receive commercial hospital discharge packs stop breastfeeding sooner than those
who do not” (here is the letter and the petition).

About 66 percent of hospitals still give away formula, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which notes that babies who are fed formula and stop breastfeeding early have higher risks of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations, and prescriptions. The CDC adds that low rates of breastfeeding add $2.2 billion a year to medical costs and that moms who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers (read this). Nonetheless, only 14 percent of 6-month-old infants are exclusively breastfed.

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