Vending machines for prescription drugs bill to be introduced this legislative session

Vending machines for prescription drugs bill to be introduced this legislative session. (WPEC)

Imagine getting your prescription in the same way you get money from an ATM. It's a bill expected to garner attention this legislative session.

Lawmakers in Florida are back to work today. Tuesday marks the first day of legislative session in Florida, so for the next few months, you will hear about thousands of bills local representatives want to make into laws.

Employees at Atlantis Pharmacy in Lake Worth are keeping their eyes on House Bill 59, which proposes vending machine-like technology to access prescription drugs 24 hours a day.

"I like the idea of technology," said Damien Simmons, the pharmacy's manager. "The future is going to be so different than what we gown up with."

Simmons is the vice-president of the Palm Beach County Pharmacy Association and a member of the Florida Pharmacy Association. He is constantly keeping tabs on the bills that would affect the pharmaceutical world. When it comes to this bill, he says there are pros and cons. For starters, he appreciates the technology, and says there are people who can benefit.

"The pharmacy closes at nine, but I don't get off of work until nine and I can't get there until 9:30," Simmons explained as a possible scenario. "What are we gonna do? There is not a 24-hour location."

Simmons says this can also serve patients in "under-served" rural areas.

While there is a purpose, Simmons says he does have some issues with the bill, mostly regarding security. If passed, not only would patients be able to access drugs through a machine, but they also would not be required to consult with a pharmacist, thought they'd have the option to through a video chat.

"When patients come to our pharmacy, they know our integrity is sound," he said. "They don't have to worry about a leak to the internet. They don't have to worry about somebody finding one of their bottles somewhere."

The bill also proposes the machines be located anywhere; Simmons says they need to be located closer to hospitals or pharmacies to address any issues as soon as they happen.

"Let's say that machine has the wrong drug in it, how would that get addressed?" he said. "How long will it take until someone fixes that? How many people would have access to that before someone does fix it or that kind of thing?"

Right now, hospitals in Jacksonville and Miami already use these machines on their campuses. The bill, which is sponsored by Matt Willhite, a Florida Democratic representative from Wellington, would expand the technology outside of medical centers.

Simmons says he and about 300 other pharmacists will travel to Tallahassee next week to meet with state legislators about the bill.