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Medicine Idle

Drug Vending Machines 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the correct-change-only dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If you guessed San Bernardino County prisons as the ideal place to put drug vending machines, come claim your prize. From the article, 'Corrections departments are responsible for so many burdensome tasks that many of their everyday functions, like administering prescription drugs to inmates, are afterthoughts for the public. However, dispensing medication was so laborious and wasteful for the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sheriff-Coroner Department that officials sought a way to streamline the process. The end product was essentially a vending machine that links to correctional facility databases and dispenses prescription medications.'"
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Drug Vending Machines

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  • I expected... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zergl (841491) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:49AM (#29215239)

    I expected Heroin/Crack dispensers reading the headline.

    Left disappointed.

    • by zapakh (1256518)

      I expected Heroin/Crack dispensers reading the headline.

      Left disappointed.

      Maybe not, but we had a Heroin/Crack addict reading the headline...

  • by g0es (614709) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:49AM (#29215241)
    It's a clever idea, but what is making sure they take the drugs?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by millwall (622730)

      It's a clever idea, but what is making sure they take the drugs?

      Who is making sure of that with the current setup?

      • In most cases the prisoners/patients are not allow to walk away until they take the medication in front of the staff. But the catch22 is most of the prisoners/patients just don't swallow the pills or if they do they force them back out later.

        in either case it seem to be a lose lose situation but if this solution saves money for that state it's not a bad idea IMO

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jim_Maryland (718224)
        My wife currently works as a nurse at the prison system in Maryland. Part of her duties include passing medications to the inmates. Unlike medications that most of us are familiar with, most of the medications are not coated. Those that are in capsule form are opened and poured into the drinking cup. Anyone found to be regurgitating medicines have theirs crushed and dissolved in water in the future. There are also limits on certain medications that prohibit their usage (think some of the pain medicatio
      • by Golddess (1361003)

        It's a clever idea, but what is making sure they take the drugs?

        Who is making sure of that with the current setup?

        Yes, not the pronoun but a person with the unlikely name of Who is making sure of that with the current setup.


        But in all seriousness, I imagine the person currently dispensing the drugs is performing this role, making sure the person takes the drugs before moving on to the next person. Unless it's so bad they just have the drugs spread out on a table and they tell the people to just take what they need.

    • by kalirion (728907)

      Why should they make sure? This is a prison, not a mental institution. If a diabetic prisoner does not want to take his insulin, that's his problem.

      • by Ironica (124657)

        Why should they make sure? This is a prison, not a mental institution. If a diabetic prisoner does not want to take his insulin, that's his problem.

        An awful lot of prison inmates are on drugs to control mental health issues. You really don't want a guy deciding not to take his meds for schizophrenia and having a psychotic break in the middle of the cafeteria.

        Also, if a diabetic doesn't take his Glyburide (insulin is injected, so probably can't be administered by the machine... I don't imagine prisoners are given unsupervised access to needles), and goes into a diabetic coma, he's then admitted to the hospital on the public dime. We *still* have to ta

        • by kalirion (728907)

          An awful lot of prison inmates are on drugs to control mental health issues. You really don't want a guy deciding not to take his meds for schizophrenia and having a psychotic break in the middle of the cafeteria.

          Is that what happens when the insanity defense fails (or isn't attempted) - they get sent to normal prison but given drugs to control their insanity? Doesn't seem right....

          • by Ironica (124657)

            An awful lot of prison inmates are on drugs to control mental health issues. You really don't want a guy deciding not to take his meds for schizophrenia and having a psychotic break in the middle of the cafeteria.

            Is that what happens when the insanity defense fails (or isn't attempted) - they get sent to normal prison but given drugs to control their insanity? Doesn't seem right....

            Insanity defense only works if you're insane enough that you cannot tell right from wrong. If you can tell right from wrong, but you don't have the impulse control to avoid doing something just because you know it's wrong, you still go to prison.

            Or, if your misdeeds were not directly motivated by your insanity at all... say, your psychiatric condition was adequately controlled by medication, but you got drunk and ran a red light and killed someone (voluntary manslaughter). Or maybe your condition was not

      • Somehow, in this crazy mixed-up world of ours, the prison is still responsible...
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:50AM (#29215245) Homepage Journal

    Pharmaceutical regulations require that if medication is prepared for a patient and he or she can't be reached, it's deemed undeliverable and must be destroyed. The leftovers are typically flushed down the toilet or incinerated.

    It should be illegal to flush medication down the toilet. Sewage often gets dumped unprocessed into waterways (especially when it is raining) and potent prescription medications can have significant effects when let loose in the world. It has gotten to the point where most drinking water in the USA not only has rocket fuel in it even after processing, but also antibiotics. If you don't think that will have serious repercussions, you're not thinking.

    • by schnikies79 (788746) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:54AM (#29215293)

      Flushing drugs down the toilet isn't the problem. The problem is that a large portion of many medications taken are simply peed away. Good luck telling people not to urinate in the toilet when they are taking antibiotics or birth control pills.

      • A study in LA in 2005 (sorry don't have the source) showed small amounts progesterone in the drinking water. Whether from people flushing or simply urinating the hormone away, I don't know. But such studies explain why my wife is only drinking filtered water during her pregnancy.

      • by GWBasic (900357)

        Flushing drugs down the toilet isn't the problem. The problem is that a large portion of many medications taken are simply peed away.

        The problem is that people aren't partying hard enough!

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Flushing drugs down the toilet isn't the problem. The problem is that a large portion of many medications taken are simply peed away.

        Wrong. Those half-processed medications are distributed by their very nature. They are A problem, but they are not THE problem; concentrations of completely unprocessed drugs caused by flushing the tablets which are designed to stay together for a time before they break down, and which are designed to break down in the gut and not in the sewer, are far more serious. It's much like heavy metal contamination; over time small, distributed concentrations of heavy metals will actually be fixed by mycelium (makes

    • by bosef1 (208943)

      The FDA and EPA are aware of the problem of powerful drugs entering the water supply, see http://www.epa.gov/ppcp/ [epa.gov] and http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm101653.htm [fda.gov]. Aside from certain classes and types of drugs, the FDA recommends that most drugs be mixed with regular solid waste for disposal, not flushed down the toilet (the mixing with solid waste is to prevent children and pets from accidently ingesting the drugs by rendering them unpalatable). The FDA had list of classes of drugs that

    • by badfish99 (826052)

      That's right. All these prisoners who flush their medications down the toilet should be put in prison.
      Oh, wait...

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @08:53AM (#29215277) Homepage Journal

    Ok.. I am only being SEMI snarky here after thinking about this...

    They ought to make some extra revenue by selling the tech to Japan. While getting a doctor's Rx out of a central machine would probably tick off Americans, the Japanese would have no trouble with it at all... think of everything they buy through those machines already!

    • by jack2000 (1178961)
      Actually I'd rather take my pills from a vending machine then having to haul my ass to a pharmacy.
      • You'd have to haul your ass just as far to get to the vending machine. Do you think they're going to let boxes with prescription drugs sit on every street corner?

        I sure as hell wouldn't want my drugs coming from a machine. I can't count the number of times I hit "mountain dew" and get "coke".
        If I get the wrong stuff at the pharmacy it's pretty simple "excuse me, here's the pills you gave, here's the prescription, they don't match".

        Now, wrong stuff at the vending machine:
        1. call phone number
        2. stay on hold
        • by jack2000 (1178961)
          I'm more concerned with the have-to-talk-to-people bit then how far I'm going to go to get my meds. But i see now what you mean.
    • by kalirion (728907)

      I'd be surprised if they don't already have this in Japan.

    • by Jaysyn (203771)
      We can call them Medbox instead of Redbox.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Here's [talyst.com] the company that makes the systems. I doubt they have anything against selling them to Japan, but then they probably have competitors selling them there, too.

      Having people stand around counting pills is just stupid. That's what this is, an automated pill-counter hooked up to a database so individualized medicine packets can be packaged at a high rate.

      No, it has nothing to do with vending machines where you would presumably put in some money and select a drug. All the people riffing on the inte

  • *slips 1000$ bill in "Refreshing Crack!" vending machine*

    *crack tube stays stuck in vending machine coil*

    "No! Don't leave me hanging man!!!"

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:09AM (#29215477)

      slips 1000$ bill in "Refreshing Crack!" vending machine

      I was about to comment that a rock will only set you back $20, but then I remembered how much a vending machine charged me for a soda recently.

    • I had a feeling someone would beat me to this. Though the quote is, "Come on, man! Don't hold out on me like this!" And I'm not sure it's $1000 because in a later episode when everyone gets their $200 tax refunds the same guy says "No cheap crack houses for me no more!" and walks up to a crack mansion.

      Me? A Futurama geek? Noooo...
  • A truck full of quarters... Unless it only dispenses generics.

  • A few months ago I went to an independent local urgent care clinic. They had two drug vending machines in lieu of their own pharmacy. Creeped me out.
    • If you look behind the counter at some pharmacies(I'd assume the larger chain outfits are leading the way on this; but I'm not sure), you'll see that they are using what is basically a vending machine(minus the money collector bit and general armoring, since it's behind the counter). It feels a bit impersonal, and it won't do for patients that need a consult with the pharmacist; but for the nth refill of somebody's routine blood pressure pills or SSRIs, or whatever, a machine is probably both faster and mor
  • There's a trial here in Toronto with a similar technology. Automated delivery of prescriptions moves a step closer in Ontario [www.cbc.ca]
  • Why not just label the vending machine "Pinata" and wait for all the outstanding resident of these prisons to spend their mass quantities of free time play whack-a-mole on this baby till it rains pharmaceutical goodness. Brilliant
    • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:31AM (#29215787) Homepage Journal

      I would guess that these machines are probably NOT located in the game room, exercise room, or other common area where prisoners congregate. Even if secure room by themselves all you need is a normal guard to watch, which I am guessing is a lot cheaper than putting a pharmacist on staff.

      • by SparkleMotion88 (1013083) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @12:30PM (#29218477)
        Riiiight... You can achieve security by having a poorly paid guard keep an eye on the valuable prescription drugs in the prison.
        • by Firethorn (177587)

          Prison guards, on average, aren't poorly paid at all.

          They aren't mall rent a cops.

          • by LiENUS (207736)

            Prison guards, on average, aren't poorly paid at all. They aren't mall rent a cops.

            HAHA, what prisons are you talking about?

            • by Firethorn (177587)

              Pretty much all of them? Prison guard isn't a minimum wage job; mall security pretty much IS, at least in my area.

              • by LiENUS (207736)
                We make about 12$ an hour starting. and we're one of the best paid prisons in the hour I make more as a sgt than my friend did as a captain at his old job.
          • by malkir (1031750)
            However they are, on average, about as useful (or useless) as mall rent-a-cops. Unless you've dealt with one in action, you wouldn't understand.
      • by Khyber (864651)

        "Even if secure room by themselves all you need is a normal guard to watch, which I am guessing is a lot cheaper than putting a pharmacist on staff."

        Your assignment for the week is to watch seasons 1-6 of Oz and come back with a full 5,000 word essay on why your sentence wouldn't apply.

        And before you say "Oz is just HBO TV" I've been through the prison system and Oz is pretty goddamned close to what Parchman, MS is like.

      • by LiENUS (207736)

        Even if secure room by themselves all you need is a normal guard to watch, which I am guessing is a lot cheaper than putting a pharmacist on staff.

        I dunno what prison's you've been to. But here they have a normal officer hand out the medication, not a pharmacist.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      Insightful and funny.
  • Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @09:43AM (#29215929)
    What could possibly go wrong?
  • by 3waygeek (58990) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:03AM (#29216261)

    Maybe the department could spring for some more coroners & staff. My brother lived in SB county until he passed away in May from an apparent heart attack. I say apparent because we still, 3 months later, don't have a death certificate, even though an autopsy was done and the body cremated within a few days of his death.

    • The vending machines are cheaper than the people. That's the whole point.

      (Or at least, that's what the marketing materials say. They probably don't have sufficient personnel to do a proper cost-benefit analysis, or evaluate the product for suitability.)

    • by Khyber (864651)

      It's not SB County's fault. SB has had some bad budget cuts recently. I learned a couple of weeks ago that if I *REALLY* wanted to all it would take is a fully-loaded glock .40 to take out the ENTIRE active police force in SB and Redlands. Redlands only has a total of 4 cops working at any given time, SB only has about 8. Assuming I have a double-stack 15 round magazine for the Glock .40, one shot one kill is all it takes.

      You probably haven't gotten a DC yet because of the budget cuts. Just keep pressing th

  • This is a fairly neat concept, and it seems like it would have applications beyond the prison system. One idea I had would be to put something similar in retirement homes or communities. Obviously it wouldn't work for people who are bedridden or senile, but it would probably be great for older people who can't drive down to a pharmacy, due to bad eyesight or limited mobility to get pills, but who can still walk down the hall or down the block. Since it's a vending machine, you can come when you want to g

  • There are drug vending machines all over the US dispensing drug containing items like coffee, coca cola, red bull, mountain dew,...

  • by trybywrench (584843) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @10:46AM (#29216911)
    I work as a software engineer for a mid sized pharmacy chain. These things are pretty common wherever there's a large, consistent, patient population. Nursing homes use them as well as hospices, it's like an automated prescription filling robot where the rx is verified by a pharmacist at the very last step.

    Most mail delivery pharmacies use them too, the concept is called "central fill" where pharmacies transmit rx's electronic to a central facility that has a few very high volume filling robots. The pharmacists there verify like 60 to 70 rx's per hour. You'd think pharmacists hate an assembly line job but they're actually the most sought after jobs. No sick, pissed off patients to deal with.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      The real irony is that these kinds of places need pharmacists at all. The machines should be able to just fill and check their own prescriptions. If a patient has any potential drug conflicts then the system would flag them for review by a pharmacist, of course, but that would happen before prescriptions are filled. It seems like the only reason we have pharmacists in these sorts of places is due to outdated regulations. No pharmacist was involved in getting the right pills to the pharmacy, so why is on

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by trybywrench (584843)
        The issue is you need someone to do a sanity check and make sure no one mistakenly filled a hopper meant for Children's Tylenol with, say, Oxycontin. In the case of drugs coming to the pharmacy, our pharmacists physically examine each pill before it goes into the vial when they're counting them out. This is the drug wholesaler sanity check.
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          So, suppose you have a machine that takes a picture of the pill and compares it to a library? Even better, why not have manufacturers print barcodes on as many pills as possible? Pills also have specifications for weight and color, and these can be very easy to test.

          Maybe you also have a two-person check process every time you fill a hopper as well.

          And how does the Pharmacist know that the pill that matches the normal color and shape of the pills that were prescribed actually contains the drug on the bott

  • In addition to drug vending machines, try food vending machines. At San Quentin, one of the most dangerous times for a correctional officer is meal time on the high security wing. Officers are assaulted and have had feces thrown at them. This is a great opportunity for robotics to be introduced. Have a robotic cart motor through the cell blocks and push the food trays into the inmates' food slot. At the end, it comes back for collection. Use a remote camera to determine that all dishes are returned wi
  • Nice job using the ambiguous, emotionally-laden term "drug" in the headline to describe perfectly-normal medications that just so happen to be used by prison inmates, knowing that the immediate knee-jerk reaction of most people when they seem a conjunction of "drug" and "criminal" that something illicit and dangerous must be occurring.

    And do we really need the snarky, condescending tone of "If you guessed X you win a prize!" in the article summary? The inevitable, predictable "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag

  • One of the buttons is labeled "Viagra"!
  • This is another brilliant piece of crap thought up by people who don't think of the implications PERIOD.

    If it took me a second to come up with a scenario, I would grant a prisoner with nothing better to do all day to come up with a complete escape plan once he's outside the prison on the way to a hospital.

  • "The end product was essentially a vending machine that links to correctional facility databases and dispenses prescription medications"

    We've already got that here. It's known as the NHS [wikipedia.org], only the 'medications dispensers' are called doctors and it's they that do the typing.
    --

    Bill Gates' hurricane stopper [techflash.com]
  • by Mr 44 (180750) on Thursday August 27, 2009 @01:45PM (#29219621)

    The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved $3.8 million for the project, which includes development, implementation and system costs. However, Fillman said the sheriff's department completed the task $500,000 under budget.

    The last paragraph is the most notable part of the whole article, as far as I'm concerned!

  • If the casinos were in charge of making the vending machines, I would say that we have a chance...but it wont be long before the inmates carry special hand made tazers (with 9v batteries) to give jolts to trick the machine into giving whatever the randomness of the chip is a prescription.

    I also take it that this should not include the inmates that are too weak to actually go get their meds??? Ask another inmate to get your meds, might not only get them stolen from you, but a serious beating for implying som

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Yea, cause county jail is full of hardcore criminals.

      You've seen one too many tv shows.

      • When was the last time you went to county jail....can you even say you know what
        it looks like inside???
        You can still have a population of just under 1000 depending on the county,
        as state is more in the 10s of thousands.
        As for sending voltage through the machine,
        read up a bit on KENO and one arm bandit machines and
        how certain would be hax0rs were getting the machine to pay out by giving
        jolts at the right time in the cycle...!

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