Legislation to allow pharmacies to dispense prescription drugs through an automated kiosk passed its penultimate hurdle Monday before it goes to a Senate vote.
The Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee unanimously approved Palm Coast Republican Sen. Travis Hutson‘s bill (SB 708) after a swift debate. But pharmacy advocates still worry necessary regulations may overburden businesses if not settled now.
Automated kiosks are already used to dole out medication in long-term care facilities, hospices, and prisons. However, this legislation would extend the kiosks’ use beyond institutionalized populations into, for example, rural areas.
An amendment accepted Monday would limit the extent of kiosks to within buildings connected to an operating pharmacy.
Representatives from AARP, Walgreen’s, MedAvail, Americans for Prosperity, the Florida Retail Federation and the James Madison Institute indicated their continuing support for the proposal. But Michael Jackson, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Pharmacy Association signaled opposition.
Maintaining the quality of prescriptions and making pharmacists available for inspections remain his highest concerns. But Jackson questioned pharmacists’ workload with the kiosk, noting he believes pharmacists can only remotely attend two kiosks at once.
Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley endorsed the measure during committee debate.
“I understand the devil is in the detail on this type of issue, and I think we’re all concerned about the details,” he said. “But this is something where we need to be focusing on one stakeholder, and one stakeholder only, and that is the patient and the consumer and Floridians who need their medication in a timely manner.”
Jackson echoed Bradley’s sentiment, saying he believes technology can empower patients. But pharmacists might not catch unforeseen technology blips without personally monitoring machines.
On Wednesday, Hutson will host stakeholders in an effort to iron out pharmacists’ concerns with the bill. Jackson said he will attend.
“We’re trying to figure out the exact language of the details of ‘establishment’ as we work through between us, the House and other interested parties, whether its those that have pharmacists on premises that may not be out there during those hours or more rural areas that won’t have pharmacists there who can operate remotely,” Hutson said.
Dispensaries could not distribute controlled substances, like narcotics, through the kiosk.
Both Hutson’s bill and the House companion bill by Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite (HB 59) await hearings in their final committees. The Senate version next goes to the Rules Committee while the House proposal awaits the Health & Human Services Committee.