Robots Will Someday Dispense All Your Medicines

Pharmacists may be able to spend more time chatting about drugs and less time tediously counting them. The counting could be handled by a robotic pill dispenser system capable of dispensing 5,000 scripts a day.

The Rube Goldberg-like pill dispenser system is powered by a mix of computers, machinery and robots. The system prints the prescription labels, finds the correct drug, fills, seals and sends the bottle on its way. Mistakes do happen (one in 400,000), but they are rare and often picked up by the attending pharmacist.

The pharmacy at the University of California at San Francisco recently launched their robotic dispensing system with standard pills. It now handles 85% of the drugs used by the hospital. The machine is being tweaked to dispense IV and chemotherapy drugs which require careful mixing and counting. Once that hurdle is crossed, the pharmacists can get out from behind that counter, get some fresh air and let the machine do the lion's share of the work. [SFGate]