NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 9, 2006

A California company's prescription drug dispensing machine encourages doctors to prescribe generics instead of more expensive brand-name drugs, saving both patients and insurers time and money, say observers.

"Sample Centers," created by MedVantx, resemble and work like ATMs:

  • The machines dispense 30 different generic prescription medications for ailments such as diabetes and ulcers and allow physicians to give patients their first prescription of a generic drug for free.
  • Refills are purchased at the regular retail price at a pharmacy. Every time a doctor writes a new prescription for a generic drug, the patient can have it filled for free at the machine.
  • MedVantx president Rob Feeney says the machines, which have been available in doctor's offices for the past two years, allow smaller firms to compete with large pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Pfizer, whose sales representatives give free samples to doctors.
  • The company is working with 15 participating insurers, including United Healthcare, Aetna and various BlueCross BlueShield plans, that pay MedVantx a fee each time a patient uses the machine.

David Rasa, a New-Jersey physician who uses a machine, says the beauty of Sample Center is that there is no paper work. "You put your password in, you take your routing slip, the machine scans it and moves it forward," he said.

Machines currently are available in almost 200 doctors' offices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, California, Oregon, Minnesota and North Dakota. So far, the machines have saved consumers $17.5 million in copayments and insurers $22.7 million, Feeney said.

Source: Kathleen Kerr, "Push-Button Prescription; ATM-like device gives patients easy access to a generic Rx, saving them, and insurers, money," Long Island Newsday, May 5, 2006.


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