Published Online: Wednesday, February 1, 2006

A new automated drug delivery system offering patients free 30-day samples of generic medications is being field-tested in clinics and doctors' offices across the country. The drugs are dispensed by an ATM-like "Sample Center"marketed to health plans in the United States by San Diego-based MedVantx.

The machines are being made available at no cost to doctors in Rhode Island by the state's Blue Cross & Blue Shield plan, which hopes to see a measurable reduction in prescription drug costs as generic drugs become more accessible to patients.

A similar pilot test of the automated dispensing system is being administered by Aetna in Philadelphia, Pa. According to Aetna Pharmacy Director Jeff Taylor, "The MedVantx Network enables health plans to participate in a cost-effective program that provides participating physicians with immediate access to generic samples, providing more treatment options for our members."

To date, more than 100,000 samples across 9 therapeutic classes have been given to patients, and MedVantx estimates that the machines have produced $15-million savings in patient out-of-pocket costs.

The system "significantly increases the use of generic medications above existing market trends,"company officials said. "Participating doctors demonstrate an increase greater than 5 share points in the use of target medications, representing a positive return on investment for the sponsoring health plan network."

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