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The Wall Street Journal reports that in California and Virginia, state pharmacy boards have approved the use of vending machines that dispense prescription medications.

The machines are designed to help consumers circumvent long lines. “Once customers have filled an initial prescription with the pharmacist,” the WSJ writes, “they can register to retrieve and pay for their refills at a vending machine inside the store -- even when the pharmacy counter isn't open. Consumers order their refills in the usual way, either online or by phone. A pharmacist then fills the script and places packaged medicines in the machine. To pick up the order, consumers log on with a user name and password and swipe a credit or debit card. Their pre-wrapped package drops into the bin.”

The paper notes that “one of the first drug-dispensing machines, called ScriptCenter, was installed in December at a Longs Drug Stores location in Del Mar, Calif. ScriptCenters are also on their way to an Ahold Giant Food store in Reston, Va., and a Safeway Inc. Vons supermarket in Southern California.” There also is competing technology - the Automated Pharmacy Machine from Distributed Delivery Networks Corp., which is being tested in San Diego.
KC's View:
This is, quite simply, a great idea…especially because pharmacists will be able to control what prescriptions are dispensed via the machine. For example, it could limit the prescriptions in the vending machine to refills and certain medications deemed to be safe; they could even make sure that certain customers be forced to come to the service counter (like, say, senior citizens about whom they are concerned, perhaps because of worries that they will take improper dosages).