Molina Medical Group, which operates clinics in Southern California, has been using robotic prescription drug dispensers, but some pharmacists are raising concerns about the machines, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The drug vending machines stock medications for common conditions such as colds, rashes and types of flu, allowing patients to fill prescriptions before leaving a clinic.
The machines also can reduce delays associated with transferring insurance data from clinics to pharmacies.
Some pharmacist groups have expressed concern about the prescription vending machines.
Jon Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, said removing pharmacists from the prescribing process "could at best result in suboptimal therapy and at worst result in dangerous therapy."
Traditionally, pharmacists consult with physicians and patients and can suggest safer or less expensive drugs.
Gloria Calderon, vice president of clinic operations for Molina, said that the safety concerns are unfounded and that no problems have been reported to Molina regarding the use of the machines.
Calderon added that some patients could have difficulty traveling to a pharmacy to fill a prescription. Molina largely serves patients who have coverage through Healthy Families and Medi-Cal. Healthy Families is California's Children's Health Insurance Program, and Medi-Cal is the state's Medicaid program.
In addition, physicians at Molina clinics give patients the choice of having drugs filled at a regular pharmacy instead of using the drug dispensers (Ehrenfreund, Los Angeles Times, 7/29).