Need medication to treat a headache, but it’s the middle of the night?
Go to USC Village, tap your credit card or mobile payment and your product is in your hands in minutes.
The machine, offered in partnership by USC Pharmacies and USC Student Health, allows anyone easy, affordable access to over-the-counter medications, health supplies and hygiene products, long after retail stores have closed, explains Raffi Svadjian, executive director of community pharmacies at USC.
“People need health products around the clock, and we’re happy to bring the vending machine option to the USC community,” Svadjian said. “At USC Pharmacy, we’re always looking for new ways to improve and expand access to health care.”
Important access to health products
USC introduced its first pharmacy vending machine (a collaboration between USC Student Health and USC Pharmacies) in early 2019 in King Hall. That machine was relocated to the Health Sciences Campus last year while King Hall is being renovated as a new, expanded location for the University Park campus pharmacy.
“Students may have a variety of health needs that can arise after hours, including phone access to an advice nurse, counseling, confidential advocates (available through 213-740-9355/WELL) and also sometimes pharmaceutical products. The vending machines provide a convenient supplement to traditional retail pharmacy hours, for everything from condoms to over-the-counter medications, including emergency contraception and naloxone,” says Sarah Van Orman, vice president and chief campus health officer.
“In listening to and working with students in USG (Undergraduate Student Government), we have a better understanding of the current needs of our campus populations,” she continued, “Availability of emergency contraception, especially at the USG co-funded rate $5, provides access that is very important to our students.”
In addition to hygiene and health care products, the new vending machines contain the overdose-reversing drug Narcan, which public health officials are urging the public to keep on hand on the chance they ever encounter someone experiencing an opioid overdose. Narcan was approved for over-the-counter sale without a prescription last year and retails at the over-the-counter price of $45 for a twin-pack when purchased through the vending machines.
Narcan is a covered benefit of the USC Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP/Aetna) and USC employee PPO/EPO health plans with $0 co-pay, when using pharmacist consultation services at USC Pharmacies and other retailers.
NaloxoneSC, a free Narcan distribution program run by graduate students in the student chapter of AAPP (American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists) in the USC Mann School, also serves as a distribution point for Narcan. Through this state-funded program, USC students can obtain no-cost kits containing both naloxone and fentanyl testing strips, as supplies are available.
“Having access to Narcan is like keeping a fire extinguisher in your home,” says AAPP student chapter president, Shannon de Leon. “You hope you will never need to use it, but in case of emergency, it could save lives.”
A student-driven effort to increase access
Student government leaders were the driving force behind the movement for the machines at USC to also stock boxes of generic Plan B. USC Undergraduate Student Government and the USC Mann School underwrote the cost of the emergency contraceptive drug to make it available for a fraction of the retail price.
“With the changing landscape on reproductive health, we wanted to make sure students had easy access to pregnancy prevention,” says USG vice president Michelle Lu.
“There are lots of situations students might not be prepared for,” adds USG president Divya Jakatdar, “having affordable emergency contraception can make a huge difference to students who need it quickly and as privately as possible.”
Stanford University, University of Washington and Boston University are among dozens of universities across the country that have added similar vending machines to their campus so students can purchase needed products, including emergency contraception.
Staff at USC Pharmacies will maintain the machines’ contents.
In addition to the machine at USC Village (in front of the elevators to the parking garages) and the one outside Seaver Hall at the Health Sciences Campus, a third vending machine is located in the Royal Street Parking Structure (soon to be operational) at the University Park Campus.
The machines accept major credit cards as well as Google Pay and Apple Pay.