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Emergency Room Patients, This Bud's for You

Budweiser (BUD) has long claimed to be the King of Beers. It may also be the King of the Emergency Room. About a third of visits to ERs have an alcohol connection. No surprise there. A new study by David H. Jernigan and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health sought to find out what people who wind up in the emergency room are drinking. The authors report that 15 percent of people interviewed at the Johns Hopkins hospital ER in Baltimore on weekend nights in 2010 and 2011 said they’d been quaffing Budweiser, making it the preferred brand of this market segment, along with Steel Reserve Malt Liquor (TAP), Colt 45 (PBST), Bud Ice, Bud Light, and King Cobra. The findings were published in the journal Substance Abuse and Misuse.

It’s important to note that this is a pilot study; researchers interviewed just 105 people. Still, it’s unwelcome news for AB InBev, the Belgium-based multi-national that owns Budweiser. The company would like to distribute more beer in the United States, as it does in other countries, instead of sharing the profits with local U.S. distributors. Some states permit this; others don’t. Predictably, American distributors are strongly opposed to AB InBev’s efforts to control more of the beer supply chain. They argue that big beer makers can’t be trusted to market their brews responsibly. The Johns Hopkins report is a gift to the middlemen.

Leonard is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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