ATM-like machines hope to give a boost to generics sampling, WSJ reports

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In an initiative to trim spending, insurers are planning to put ATM-style machines dispensing free generic drug samples in doctors' offices around the country, The Wall Street Journal reported today.
Insurer Aetna plans to unveil a pilot program in which it wants to place the machines with doctors around Philadelphia in advance of a national rollout representing the largest use of the ATM-generic strategy to date.
The dispensing machines aim to provide a counterweight to samples of branded drugs distributed for free by sales reps working for pharmaceutical companies.
Last year, doctors received more than one billion branded drug samples – more than three for every person in the U.S. – valued at nearly $16 billion, according to IMS Health data.
The generic machines will, in most cases, dispense a 30-day supply of medication, offering an advantage over branded samples, which often last only a week or so.
"We're saving patients money," Jeff Taylor, director of pharmacy for Aetna, told The Journal.
Aetna said that for common infections the machines would provide a free sample adequate to treat the condition – meaning the patient's drug cost would be zero.
Neither Aetna nor the maker of the machines, MedVantx, is offering payment or other inducements to doctors who agree to accept the machines in their offices.
Financial terms of the relationship between MedVantx and Aetna have not been disclosed. MedVantx, not Aetna, owns the equipment and provides the packets inside. Aetna pays MedVantx for the drugs dispensed, plus a processing fee.
In the past two years, MedVantx machines installed at more than 100 doctors' offices have dispensed more than 111,000 samples.
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