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House budget panel advances ATM pill bill

Representatives on the panel unanimously approved the bill.

Legislation to allow pharmacies to dispense prescription drugs through an exterior automated kiosk passed its penultimate hurdle Wednesday before it goes to a House vote. 

The bill (HB 59), filed by Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite, unanimously passed the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday. He said because 24-hour pharmacies are sometimes difficult to find, the kiosks would provide options for Florida families. 

Automated kiosks are already used to dole out medication in long-term care facilities, hospices, and prisons. However, these expand possibilities beyond institutionalized populations into, for example, rural areas. 

“It’s somewhat like your ATM machine that you get your hard-earned money out of, and we’ve been doing those for 50 years,” Willhite said. 

Dispensaries could not distribute controlled substances, like narcotics, through the kiosk. Medical cannabis is issued through an order rather than a prescription and therefore could not be dispensed regardless. 

HB 59 previously passed the Health Quality Subcommittee in November. And its Senate counterpart (SB 708), filed by St. Johns County Republican Sen. Travis Hutson, passed the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday. 

Officials from AARP, Walgreen’s, MedAvail and Ascension St. Vincent’s in Jacksonville were among those indicating their support for the proposal. The Florida Retail Association and Americans for Prosperity also gave their support. 

But Michael Jackson, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Pharmacy Association, opposed the bill as written. SB 708 now requires the kiosk be installed on the pharmacy’s premises, but HB 59 doesn’t have that language. Pharmacies could potentially install a kiosk miles away and be held liable for the prescription’s quality and being present for unannounced inspections.

“We think in time we can get it in an area where we can support it,” Jackson said. 

The Committee also advanced Willhite’s bill (HB 57) allowing hospitals to give discharged patients enough of a prescription to hold them over to the next business day. Current law lets hospitals only give out at 24-hour dose, but he said that could leave a treatment gap. 

“I’ve had my own case where my mother was discharged on Thanksgiving Day,” Willhite said. “The prescription was sent to Publix. Publix isn’t open on Thanksgiving Day.” 

Both of his bills next go to the House Health & Human Services Committee.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering the Texas House of Representatives for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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