Friday, June 24, 2011

Oh, just supersize that penicillin prescription, please

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - A story in today's Sacramento Bee newspaper details out a relatively new schtick for one medical plan - providing prescription drugs to patients via a vending-type machine.

The prescription drugs are pre-packaged, apparently, and with a punch-in code and identification, voila, out comes the drugs.
Sacramento Bee photo

The story is pretty sketchy, and reads a little like an advertisement for the Molina health plan. But the implications are vast.

Here's a link to the story: Supersize my penicillin, please

Perhaps in the U.S., this system might work, because pharmacists have been pretty well stripped of any ability to offer real advice about the drugs doctors have prescribed.

I recently went to a local pharmacy (ok, it was in a Wal-Mart, but we don't have many choices in Watkins Glen, NY) and while there, had some questions about the skin meds my dermatologist had ordered. The young woman at the counter said the pharmacist would need to talk to me but after waiting a good bit - and judging from how busy he was - I opted to simply read the instructions carefully.

Probably a good thing anyway.

Mexican pharmacy
In Mexico, pharmacists are frequently medical doctors who run a drug store as an adjunct to their practices. And even if the pharmacist doesn't hold a medical degree, in most small towns they offer a lot of medical advice.

And in my experience - even with the language barrier - they seem to know what they are talking about.

With prescription drugs being dispensed by a machine, how long will it before we can do the same thing with medical office visits? Just describe your symptoms to a computer-like device and it will spit out a diagnosis and, of course, send the prescription notice over to its sister machine, which has the drugs.

I may have already seen this system in a Star Trek episode.

But one big question is not answered in the story about the drugs-by-machine: Will this automated system result in lower medical costs and lower prescription costs?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

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