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Updates! *HB0107 – Prohibition on Vending Machine Sales of Drugs and Medicines – Repeal – In the House – Third Reading Passed (93-39) In the Senate – Third Reading Passed (41-6)   *SB0499 – In the Senate – Third Reading Passed (38-8)  In the House – Third Reading Passed (97-36)
Lead bill sponsors: Delegate Robbyn Lewis and Senator Clarence Lam

As of March 30, 2021 HB0107/SB0499 passed without amendments following a positive third reading in the House and Senate and is expected to go into effect on October 1, 2021.  The governor has 30 days after being presented the bills to decide whether to sign, although his signature is not necessary for a bill to become law.  Thank you members of the House Health & Government Operations Committee and its Insurance and Pharmaceuticals Subcommittee, and the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee for not being distracted by attempts by anti-abortion legislators seeking to unnecessarily amend the legislation.

What is HB0107/SB0499 and why is it helpful?

This bill repealed part of Maryland’s Health Code which prohibited the sale of over-the-counter (OTC) medications in vending machines in an effort to increase round-the-clock OTC access, especially in communities located in pharmacy deserts.[i] Starting in October 2021, vending machines will be able to be stocked with a number of over-the-counter products including cold and flu medications, allergy relief, pain medications, and other provisions such as safe sex and first aid kits.

Further, the availability of OTC medications in vending machines can help reduce unnecessary clinical contact, which became especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic and as we prepare for potential future public health events.[ii] [iii] Vending machines can also help to reduce health care spending by increasing access to first line of defense medications and reducing unnecessary emergency room visits.[iv] [v]

The passing of this bill places Maryland within the ranks of 46 other states that also permit the sale of OTC medications in vending machines.

Why is this relevant for reproductive health?

Beyond vending machines’ potential to help reduce health disparities and inequities in Maryland, vending machines can also help increase access to sexual wellness items, like emergency contraception (EC) – formerly known as the morning after pill – which has forms that are FDA-approved as OTC medication. In lifting the restriction of OTC medications to be sold in vending machines, we hope access to EC will be less burdensome for Marylanders across the state.

Several other states have implemented similar laws specifically for the provision of EC in vending machines on college campuses.[vi] These efforts were in response to the growing need for 24-hour access to EC based on the time constraints required to take the medication effectively. This strategy allows for campus health centers to stock vending machines with a number of wellness items, specifically catered to their populations, that can be accessed even if the health center is closed. Because of student health centers’ abilities to buy EC in bulk, it is also usually possible for the cost of the medication to be offered at a reduced price as compared to off-campus competitors. Further, this access point allows students to obtain medications they need without an office visit, which can sometimes cause embarrassment or feelings of judgement.

Please check back for guides and other resources if you are interested in engaging in campus activism to place vending machines on your campus!

We are also interested in working with community activists about stalling vending machines in areas where Maryland residents do not have easy access to pharmacies or stores.

 

References:

[i] Marie A. Chisholm-Burns, Pharm.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., FCCP, FASHP, Christina A. Spivey, Ph.D, Justin Gatwood, Ph.D., M.P.H, Adam Wiss, B.S, Kenneth Hohmeier, Pharm.D, Steven R. Erickson, Pharm.D, Evaluation of racial and socioeconomic disparities in medication pricing and pharmacy access and services, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Volume 74, Issue 10, 15 May 2017, Pages 653–668, https://doi.org/10.2146/ajhp150872

[ii] Cadogan, C. A., & Hughes, C. M. (2020). On the frontline against COVID-19: Community pharmacists’ contribution during a public health crisis. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy.

[iii] Alexander GC, Qato DM. Ensuring Access to Medications in the US During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA. 2020;324(1):31–32. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6016

[iv] Reis, J. (2001). Consumers’ self-care algorithms for the common cold: implications for health education interventions. Journal of American College Health50(1), 27-32.

[v] https://www.chpa.org/MarketStats.aspx

[vi] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/us/plan-b-vending-machine.html

 

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We fight for a future that includes access to all reproductive health care no matter your zip code or employer. Maryland must lead the charge. Are you with us?