Drones Could Soon Deliver Drugs

JULY 27, 2015
Could your next drug delivery come from a drone? That is what some organizations have been investigating since the technology took off a few years ago.

Despite fears and parody videos flying around on the Internet, drones will inevitably become useful pieces of technology.
 
The premise of using drones to deliver products is being pursued by some big-name corporations, including Amazon. Some companies have even discussed the idea of delivering medications with drones as a new type of service.

While there are some limitations in terms of federal oversight, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved the first drone drug delivery service in Virginia from a company called Flirtey.
 
The premise behind this operation is that drones can help local medical services deliver medications to greatly underserved populations in regions that do not have much access to medical care due to geographical limitations, communication problems, and general infrastructure issues.
 
Flirtey will partner with local clinics to pilot a small program in which drones deliver medications to a selected population in the region to determine their practicality. If the venture proves successful, it will call into question what larger premise is possible.
 
For instance, many patients across the United States may find it difficult to access their medications based on where their nearest pharmacy is located. This can be a large concern for those taking critical medications in terms of disease management and hospitalization. However, drones may offer a means to reach such vulnerable patients and get them what they need.
 
Nonetheless, the types of drugs that can be delivered may be the biggest limitation of drone delivery. If controlled substances were to start flying around, some individuals may be keen to start swatting drones out of the sky to get them. Other issues include federal oversight on which regions will be targeted and which patients will benefit.
 
Regardless, drones could become a disruptive source for drug delivery in the near future, and they will most likely find their niche in the public health sector for underserved individuals. Other potential uses will be emergency situtations where drones may be able to deliver medications, or disaster situations where drugs can be dropped in as needed from neighboring areas.

Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.
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