Automated Supply Machines

Under certain conditions medicines can be stored and supplied from automated storage machines. These devices are termed vending machines under the Medicines and Poisons Regulations and were previously recognised as electronic storage and supply units (ESSU).

What are Automated Supply Machines?

A vending machine is defined as any machine or device used or capable of being used for the purpose of supplying medicines.

These machines include technologies like “robots” in hospital pharmacies, dose administration aid packing machines, anaesthetic trolleys, and automated “dispensing” medicines on hospital wards.

These machines can increase efficiency, reduce errors and improve governance (prevent loss and theft).


Automated Supply Machines can be used by there are some important restrictions. They are expressly not permitted for the supply of poisons (Schedule 5, 6 or 7 substances). They are also not suitable for the supply of Schedule 2 or 3 medicines by retail sale of over the counter medicines.

Approved Machines still require intervention by an authorised health practitioner.

What requires approval?

Any machine that will be used to store or supply a Schedule 4 medicine that is capable or may potentially supply without the personal manipulation or attention at the time of supply of the supplier or an employee or agent of the supplier, will require approval for use.

A device used to store a Schedule 4 medicine that can only be used by a health practitioner does not require approval. This includes some specialised storage cabinets used by pharmacies.

Any device used to store or supply a Schedule 8 medicine that is not a complaint drug safe requires approval.

Devices used to assist patients administer medicines that are already dispensed by a pharmacist do not require approval.

Gaining approval

Only automated supply machines that meet strict security standards will be approved.  A machine must:

  • meet recognised security standards
  • only allow access by authorised persons
  • be supervised by the authorised person
  • keep accurate records of access and supply.

A written request for approval must be made to the Department of Health. Cases will be individually assessed and in most instances an inspection and demonstration is likely to be required.

What will be assessed depends on the individual machine, the medicines to be stored and how the machine will be used. The Guidance Note: Electronic Storage and Supply of Medicines (Word 389KB) is provided to allow self-assessment and general direction as to what elements will be assessed.

Before purchase

Automated Supply Machines for medicines are sophisticated medical hardware and software products. They are a significant financial investment for health practitioners and installation projects are complex.

It is strongly recommended that before considering this type of purchase that the Department of Health is contacted for more information.

More information

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch
Mailing address: PO Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849
Phone: 9222 6883