Tuesday, February 07, 2012

First DVDs, then wi-fi, now morning-after pills available through vending machines

We've seen vending machines that deliver DVDs. We've seen vending machines that deliver wi-fi ... sort of. Now we've got vending machines that sell the morning-after pill.

The Etter Health Center at Shippensburg University, which is a public school with 8,300 students overall in central Pennsylvania, has a vending machine that stocks the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive (or morning-after pill) along with condoms, pregnancy tests --- and more prosaic items like decongestants and cough drops.

The vending machine's contents came via the request of the student government. Students at the university can buy the morning-after pill by paying $25 at the vending machine.

The vending machine was requested by the school's Student Association shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted a restriction on the pill that limited its non-prescriptive sale to individuals older than 18 in 2009.

With that, the morning-after pill can now be sold legally, over-the-counter, to anyone 17 and older. Key, though, is enough security to ensure those under 17 have no access to the vending machine.

School spokesperson Peter Gigliotti said,

"The machine is in a private room in our health center, and the health center is only accessible by students. In addition, no one can walk in off the street and go into the health center. Students proceed to a check-in desk located in the lobby and after checking in are granted access to the treatment area."

About one dose a day is sold from the vending machine. Dr. Roger Serr, university vice president for student affairs said "Somewhere between 350 and 400 [doses] are being sold." annually. The school had about 3,718 female students last fall.

Notably, a full time student's comprehensive health fee for the school year is $150, but absolutely none of it is used to finance the sale of the morning-after pill. The university pays $25 to a pharmaceutical company for a dose of the medication, which is the same price it's sold for at the vending machine.

Not only have vending machines been invaded by DVDs and wi-fi (in terms of broadcasting free wi-fi in a radius around the machine) as well as morning-after pills, vending machines have been turned into "disguises," as well. In that case, it was a work of art.

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