At Molina Medical Group clinics in Sacramento, a vending machine rather than a pharmacist dispenses prescription drugs.
Molina officials say the big machines make life simpler for patients, but their use has drawn objections from some pharmacists.
The kiosks are the size of a large refrigerator. They hold a stock of medications for common illnesses such as colds, flus and rashes, so patients can have their prescription filled before they leave the clinic.
"With our patient population, there may be some barriers to getting over to the pharmacy to pick up medication," said Gloria Calderon, vice president of clinic operations for Molina.
The company serves largely low-income patients through programs such as Medi-Cal and Healthy Families. The robotic pharmacies improve access to medications for patients who may struggle to find child care or transportation.
InstyMeds Corp. of Minneapolis released the kiosks in 2002. They are now installed in about 200 locations around the country, said company spokeswoman Emily Theisen.
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