Error-free drug dispensing was an elusive dream for hospitals and the healthcare industry about 20 years ago, but has slowly turned into a reality with more robotic dispensers taking charge of giving away thousands of prescriptions per day. In North America, over 30,000 prescription errors have been voluntarily reported to the U.S. FDA. The world’s largest drug approval authority estimates that there are 7000 annual deaths occurring due to errors in drug prescription. Drug name confusion, illegible prescriptions and dosage errors are the largest contributors to prescription errors. MedWatch, which is the agency’s safety information and adverse event reporting program, collects data on such incidences for review of medication error reports.
The first pharmacy automation devices to be used were tablet counters in hospital pharmacies. Today, there are compact pharmacy automation technologies to control, track, register, dispense and maintain pharmaceutical inventory. The automation does not restrict itself to drugs, since these technologies can be expanded to include other hospital supplies such as devices, surgical instruments and large quantities of hospital consumables and equipment. Pharmacy automation is observed to be applied the most in central pharmacies of large hospitals as compared to small hospitals and pharmacies. Automation in retail pharmacies is observed to be an increasing trend with many drug store chains connecting doctors with automated prescription generation and drug dispensing.
In terms of geography, pharmacy automation is seen particularly in major European countries such as Germany, the U.K. and Spain. In United States, there are an estimated 55,000 drug stores, of which, around 35-40% own some kind of pharmacy automation technology. Transparency Market Research (http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/), a leading market research firm, estimates that United States accounts for around 55% of global pharmacy automation market. Asia and other emerging regions are yet to showcase demand for these technologies due to limited presence of large drug chains and heavy investment in pharmacy management. Nevertheless, pharmacy automation is a growing trend, which is changing the pharmacy landscape around the world. Pharmacy automation is expected to grow to USD 7.8 billion by 2018, from a 2011 market worth USD 4.7 billion, at a CAGR of over 7% from 2012 to 2018.