Los Angeles Times Examines Automated Prescription Drug Dispensing Machines
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined automated prescription drug-dispensing machines. The machines, which currently only dispense refills, have been installed in a few California stores, and there are plans to expand them to Manhattan and Reston, Va. Pharmacists fill prescriptions and then load them into the machines for customers to pick up.
To obtain their prescriptions, customers enter identifying information on a touch screen and swipe a credit card for payment. The machines then slide pre-bagged medications down a chute. California State Board of Pharmacy regulations do not specifically allow dispensing through automated machines, but stores carrying the machines have been granted waivers to test the technology, Board of Pharmacy Executive Officer Patricia Harris said.
According to Bill Holmes -- president and CEO of Distributed Delivery Networks, one of the companies that make the machines -- the machines might help address pharmacist shortages.
John Cronin, senior vice president of the California Pharmacists Association, said, "Convenience is not always the best thing. What concerns us is the use of this kind of technology would tend to decrease the interaction between the pharmacist and the consumer." He added, "There is a place for these machines. We're not going to be able to suppress technological advances like this. But there needs to be a thought process about what the total impact will be on the consumer" (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 8/15).