Imagine seeing your doctor and getting a prescription filled all in one shot. In-office vending machines for prescription drugs could be in your future. A company called Quiqmeds (Quiqmeds.com) already has 16 in Pennsylvania, with contracts pending in Connecticut and Florida.
Quiqmeds is like a vending machine for medications and it holds 400 to 700 bottles of pre-packaged, safety-sealed drugs. The physician writes the prescription order. Next, the drug, strength, dosage and usage instruction are entered on a touch screen. A staff member checks the written prescription against the order on the computer and prints out two sets of labels. Then, a security code is used to dispense the bottle of medication. The labels are double-checked against the bottle. Finally, one label is applied to the bottle and another to the patient’s chart. The patient pays for the prescription before leaving the office.
Depending on the state, doctors who use the machine make a minimal profit on each prescription. Craig Nurick with Quiqmeds told me the doctors typically make about $5.00 per prescription. He said the machines contain mainly generic medications. I was concerned the doctors would prescribe certain medications based on what they had available in the vending machines. Nurick said the doctors are not aware of how much of each medication is left in the machines. The server goes directly to Quiqmeds. He said the doctors make such a small amount of money on each prescription, pushing certain meds would not be a problem.
And what about safety? Will people start breaking into these things? Nurick said the machine is 800 pounds and made of steal, so that is not an issue.
And what about insurance. The machine does not take insurance. Nurick said that's why the drugs are mainly generic.
So what about when your child gets amoxicillan that has to be mixed with water? Who does the mixing? Nurick says it comes out as a powder and there is a line that says "Fill to here."
Here are some facts compiled by the medical company Medstar:
Americans purchased 3.6 billion prescriptions in 2005 at a cost of $200.7 billion.Up to 49 percent of patients don’t fill or take their medications as directed. Two common reasons for not getting a prescription filled are cost and access to a pharmacy.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports Americans purchased 3.6 billion prescriptions in 2005, costing them $200.7 billion. 59 percent of those under 65 purchased at least one prescription. Among those 65 and older, roughly 92 percent purchased one or more prescription medications.
Medications are prescribed to treat diseases and/or help patients cope with chronic medical conditions. Yet, researchers estimate as many as 49 percent of patients don’t adhere to physician recommendations for taking/filling their medications. In one study, 22 percent of patients being treated for end-stage kidney disease reported they forgot to fill their prescriptions. Another 30 percent failed to fill their prescriptions, mainly because they didn’t have enough money or have a way to get to the pharmacy.
Some physicians have been dispensing certain prescription drugs out of their offices for several years. However, doctors need to have a secure place to store the drugs and need to be conscientious about re-ordering supplies. With QuiqMeds, the company monitors usage through an Internet connection and restocks the vending machine when supplies run low. The system is very secure because only QUIQMEDS staff can get inside the machine to access medications.
Would you get your drugs out of a vending machine at your doctor's office? What do you think about this concept?