Medicine vending is always a tricky topic. However, there’s already a subtle shift towards the movement. For instance, many hospitals use vending machines to dispense patient medication. Access is restricted to nursing or medical staff, and requires authentication before medicine is accessed. Typically, an Electronic Medical Administration Record (eMAR) is kept to track usage for med management purposes.
However, what about the general public? Could there be vending machines placed in public spaces at some point for the sole purpose of giving consumers access to medicine when they need it? It’s already happening in one city.
In 2017, Las Vegas became the first city in the United States to provide consumers with syringes via vending machines. Now, they have added another product, Narcan. Ironically, the move is focused on consumer safety. Narcan is an opioid overdose reversal drug. When an individual overdose on an opiate based drug, swift action is necessary. It can mean the difference between life and death. An overdose can inhibit breathing or stop it all together. Narcan reverses the effect of the overdose restoring order in a crisis situation.
The Specifics of Medicine Vending
The vending machine for Narcan is located on the campus of a psychiatric treatment center. User access to the vending machine is free. There’s no medical appointment required in order to maintain consistency with the goal of the Mental Health Center which is to address patient addiction on multiple fronts. However, there are certain steps consumers must take before access is granted. Patients must obtain a magnetic card in order to access the machine and are then only able to receive one free Narcan dose per month. And while people have certainly questioned the ethics behind the decision, proponents cite a report from the National Safety Council which discloses more Americans are likely to die from drug overdoses than car accidents.
Does this speak to a shift in medicine dispensing as a whole? Probably so, but the issue is multi-faceted and therefore, slow. For instance, Bright Work Research suggests medicine vending machines could play a real role in consumer healthcare (and lower costs too). The only problem is many people believe vending machines containing medicine would be controlled by large drug companies. To ensure fair play, a separate company would own those devices. With a fair bidding system or private partnership in place, medicine could be placed into vending machines for consumer access.
The perfect scenario would involve scanning your prescription at a vending machine, much like you scan groceries at a self checkout in a grocery store. The prescription would immediately be processed through your insurance provider and any co-pays could be made through the vending machine (much like modern soft drink machines). Afterward, your medicine would be dispensed. Does this seem far fetched? There are already vending machines nationwide stocked with over-the-counter medicine.
So it will be interesting to see how medical vending continues to take shape and trend. Ultimately, medicine vending will be a slow, uphill climb before it becomes main stream. Yet, the possibilities and opportunity to allow consumers quicker access to medication is an admirable goal. Imagine receiving discharge medications through a vending machine. That’s just one application. As always, Janus will be there every step of the way to aid you with med management and ensure optimal continuum of care for your specific situation.
feature image credit: Cleveland 19 News