You've got to imagine the Japanese are green with envy right now, as the BBC report not one, but two different drug vending machines are being tested out under Her Majesty's watchful eye. The first of these experiments is run by supermarket chain Sainsbury's, which has installed a pair of drug dispenser machines in its stores. They identify users by their fingerprint or a unique number, demand PIN verification too, and then finally accept your prescription. Then -- and this is the really silly part -- a pharmacist comes along, picks up your prescription, fills it out, and deposits it in the machine for you to pick up. So it's impersonal and unnecessarily convoluted, great. PharmaTrust seems to have a slightly better idea with its videophone-equipped, ATM-style robo-vendor: it's intended to allow pharmacists to approve prescriptions off-site and out of usual working hours by letting them speak to you via videophone. It could in fact be a big benefit in more remote areas, depending on how patients take to it -- we'll know more when the trial starts up in participating hospitals this winter.

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