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Originally published March 30 2007

Human pharmacists replaced by robot in UK hospital

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

The pharmacy at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, England, has installed a robot to fill patients' prescriptions for them. According to hospital officials, the robot -- which not only fills prescriptions but keeps records as well -- will save the hospital money and its employees time.

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What you need to know - Conventional View

• The Musgrove Park Hospital Pharmacy dispenses 160,000 items and 260,000 related supplies every year. Filling these orders is a substantial burden on pharmacists' time.

• The new robot pharmacist uses barcodes to identify and sort medication. This makes it possible for human pharmacists to spend more time with patients or refiling unused medications.

• The robot can also keep records of every item in stock, and is able to check and sort all incoming orders to keep the records up-to-date.

• Two people will double check each prescription before handing it over to a patient. The robot has an error rate of one in 10,000.

• The hospital says that the robot will save it more than 1,200 hours of staff time per year, and that it has already saved the hospital 30,000 ($58,000). This implies that human pharmacists are working fewer hours, rather than devoting all their newly free time to patients.

• Quote: "The new robot has revolutionised the way we work and cut the time it takes to store, find and dispense drugs." - Principal Pharmacist Mark Ashley

What you need to know - Alternative View

Statements and opinions by Mike Adams, author for Truth Publishing

• Drug companies love the idea of using robotic automation to dispense more drugs to more patients. In fact, they would love to eliminate humans altogether in the disease diagnosis and drug dispensing process, taking a "vending machine" approach to selling prescription drugs that eliminates doctors, too. The strong push to get prescription drugs approved as over-the-counter drugs is evidence of drug companies' efforts to bypass doctors.

• While robotic pharmacists may reduce drug deaths from prescription filling errors, they will do nothing to prevent deaths from properly dispensed drugs.

Bottom line

• A UK hospital is using a robot to fill patients' prescriptions.

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