A Bill being considered by the Florida Legislature would allow for the use of automated pharmacy dispensing, allowing pharmacies to use what essentially amounts to vending machines to dispense medications. CS/CS/HB 59: Automated Pharmacy Systems would allow community pharmacies to locate machines at medical offices, employers or other locations outside of the pharmacy in order to provide convenience to patients to obtain their medications. There are a number of caveats, including that there must be available access to consult with a pharmacist and the medications cannot be controlled substances. Right now, however the companion Senate Bill appears to limit the machines to the pharmacy locations. Such automated machines were previously allowed in only long term care facilities, hospice and correctional institutions. This expansion could make it easier for pharmacies to get medications to patients it would normally mail or deliver medications or, if limited to the Senate Bill, allow for after hours pickups of prescriptions when pharmacy departments are closed. Another concern with respect to the implementation of these off-site pharmacy services and the placement of such automated devices in other provider offices such as physician offices as the House Bill permits would also raise other health care issues such as anti-kickback and self-referral laws.
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