Vending Machines Cut Out Pharmacists, Increase Risk of Drug Interaction

May 18, 2010

 

As submitted to the Tennessean

To the Editor: 

The inappropriate use of prescription medication costs the U.S. $290 billion annually, studies indicate. Those costs will likely only grow higher if drugs are routinely dispensed by machines as if they were candy or DVDs (“Vending drug machine now fills prescriptions on the spot at clinic,” May 11, 2010). 

The pharmacist is the medication expert – an even more important role given the increasing complexity of prescription drugs. Urgent care clinics usually do not have access to complete health records, including medication history and allergies. A drug-dispensing program as described at the Smyrna urgent care clinic cuts the pharmacist almost entirely out of the equation and makes the patient solely responsible for guarding against drug interactions. That’s an unacceptable burden to place on patients and a very real health risk. 

Even common antibiotics have the potential to interact with maintenance medications such as oral contraceptives and blood thinners. Only a pharmacist who knows the patient and has access to their complete medication list can screen for these interactions. In addition, there is growing concern about antibiotic resistance, which can be decreased with prescriber and patient education on appropriate antibiotic selection and completion of therapy. 

Local pharmacists with established patient relationships provide the face-to-face consultations and expertise needed to maximize therapeutic outcomes of prescription medication use and to reduce the costs associated with drug misuse. 

Sincerely,
Douglas Hoey, RPh,
National Community Pharmacists Association,
Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

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