When it comes to medication access, the rule “more is better” is not always practical. There are many regulations in place controlling the distribution and availability of certain drugs, particularly prescription medication. It’s not easy to sell or distribute things like antidepressants, painkillers, or corticosteroids – and neither should it be.
But what if a patient is in dire need of medication? What if they need immediate care, or require a sample to deal with current symptoms? Most doctors are allowed to stock some medication purely to administer to patients who need it, or as a sample for a future prescription to be filled at a pharmacy. This is generally known as physician distribution.
It should not be mistaken for other forms of medication distribution, where non-medical personnel are allowed to distribute medication to people. These circumstances are rare and usually do not permit prescription medication. In general, only medical personnel (doctor’s assistants, nurses, and the staff of a physician’s office in addition to the physician themselves) may distribute medication at the point of care, in the form of free samples or immediate treatment.
However, patients nowadays do not have to be limited to their nearest pharmacist. Medication dispensing is an option available to patients in some states via their very own physician, or the nearest qualifying and registered urgent care client. Medication dispensing is an entirely different process, by which a registered and certified medical professional can stock and sell inventories of prescription drugs to their patients at the point of care, without involving any pharmacies.
What is Medication Distribution?
Medication distribution, in the context of a medical practice, has a definition that differs slightly from state to state – but in a nutshell, it refers to providing a patient with medication in any form other than dispensing and administration.
Medication administration refers to providing a patient with medication directly, by giving them a drug to inhale or ingest, or injecting them with a prescription medication at the point-of-care. For example, a patient arriving in an urgent care clinic may need a painkiller or a local anesthetic to relieve their pain while you treat their wound – both of which usually qualify as prescription drugs.
This means most cases of medication distribution refer to providing samples. This is a common part of the relationship between the medication provider/pharmaceutical industry and medical professionals. Drug samples give companies a way to make potential patients aware of their product, while providing doctors with free medication to distribute to their patients. On the downside, while this first round of drugs tends to be free, it doesn’t stay that way – most patients who pick a medication based on its free sample may be committing to an expensive course of treatment.
What is Medication Dispensing?
Medication dispensing is very different, in this case. Medication dispensed by a medical profession is not free, but it does provide a patient with greater choice and agency.
Most doctors who are qualified to dispense medication will try to pick medication they can acquire as cost-effectively as possible, in order to maintain a low price point for their patients and maximize the potential revenue their clinic or practice can generate. It makes little sense to try and stick to branded medication that costs patients an arm and a leg when alternatives exist at the nearest pharmacy.
Instead, through a combination of different branded and generic prescription drugs, physicians can give patients the opportunity to make a choice between continuing to fulfill their prescriptions at their pharmacy and choosing the convenience of getting a refill in the comfort and safety of a physician’s office.
Yes, medication dispensing does give patients the choice to opt out of a trip to the pharmacist. But the option remains. In most cases, physician dispensing programs merely help provide an additional choice, rather than becoming the primary provider of medication for a local population.
The Benefits of Physician Dispensing
There are a number of benefits to implementing physician dispensing for both the dispending practice and the patients. Practices that properly implement physician dispensing will see their reputation and revenue improve, and save time spent communicating between patients and pharmacies, including asking a pharmacy about their current stock, inquiring about specific medications, follow-up calls to ask if a patient showed up to receive their medication, and additional follow-up calls to patients to ask about their medication use afterwards.
For patients, the main two advantages of choosing to purchase medication at the point of care include convenience and medication adherence. For one, it simply saves time to get your medication from your doctor, versus making an additional trip.
However, medication adherence is the larger of the two benefits. Giving patients an additional option for procuring medication within the comfort and security of their physician’s practice also provides them with an opportunity to ask questions about their medication in private and receive a more thorough explanation for how to use their prescription. Furthermore, point-of-care dispensing removes the ambiguity of whether a patient managed to fill their prescription, giving physicians one less follow-up to worry about.
How In Office Dispensing Works
Most states have provisions in place limiting or regulating in-office physician dispensing. Some states still ban it. You can find out whether your state allows in-office dispensing currently by contacting your state’s Board of Pharmacy.
In most states, the respective Board of Pharmacy is in charge of handling the administration and registration of physicians allowed to dispense medication at the point of care.
Registration fees and requirements differ from state to state, and there may be state-specific regulations limiting your total inventory. Furthermore, physicians should expect to comply with regulatory visits and audits and need to keep a clean and clear hard record of all inventoried drugs and ongoing orders.
This is a lot of paperwork to manage. Thankfully, there are companies that specialize in buying medication in bulk orders, individually repackaging medication orders (without harming the integrity of the drug), and fulfilling a physician’s orders – meaning, if you pair with the right pharmaceutical supplier and set up a secure form of record keeping, you can potentially get started with dispensing in just a few weeks.
Proficient Rx can get you up and running even faster. Our secure turn-key dispensing solution provides access to branded and generic prescription and over-the-counter medication through our state-of-the-art, NABP accredited repackaging facility, while giving you a simple to use, cloud-based portal to manage and review patient orders, schedule follow-ups, make new medication orders, and sort your inventory. Work with us to smoothly integrate medication dispensing in your practice.