Britain may see 24-hour medicine vending machines

June 22nd, 2010 - 1:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 22 (IANS) Britain is mulling the introduction of day and night medicine vending machines initially in hospitals and on the high streets thereafter, worrying pharmacists who feel they could be out of business.

The department of health wants to try out the dispenser, developed by a Canadian firm, PharmaTrust. Costing 50,000 pounds each, it is under trial in Canada.

It may initially go on trial in five as yet unnamed hospitals in Britain. The trial’s purpose is to check out the patients’ use of technology.

The machines can dispense drugs whether or not they need to be counted, packed or refrigerated. It is bolted to a concrete plinth and surrounded by plate steel to protect against thieves.

The dispensers come in two models — a smaller one holding 330 packs and a larger one with 2,000. Users insert their prescription into the machine and pick up a telephone to access a live video link to a registered pharmacist.

The pharmacist checks the prescription and ensure those who have to pay have done so before allowing the machine to dispense the drugs. An information sheet is printed out, telling the patient how often the medicine should be taken.

Chief executive of UK Trade & Investment Sir Andrew Cahn, said: “Every year, Britons pick up nearly one billion prescriptions. This illustrates the huge potential of these machines.”

The dispensers will be a boon for the patients as they can buy their prescription medicine any time of the day and night. For the National Health Service (NHS), costs of prescribing medicine will come down - a third of daily appointments with doctors are for prescription purposes.

But the dispensers can sound the death knell for pharmacists who say chemists can be out of business and patients could be left unable to get advice from a local pharmacist.

A spokesman for the National Pharmacy Association told The Daily Mail: “It could never be an adequate substitute for your local community pharmacy, where a range of services are available beyond dispensing, such as health checks, medicine reviews and lifestyle interventions.”

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at venkata.v@ians.in)

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