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​Prescription API Problems

A project log for Smart Desktop Medicine Organizer

A coffee machine sized box that automatically organizes your medications and connects your medicine use directly to your doctor/pharmacy.

JoeJoe 08/29/2015 at 18:480 Comments

For the cloud integration portion of this project one of the goals is to use prescription APIs for various pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, etc.) to lookup medicine data from a scanned barcode. This is proving more difficult that I originally expected. Here's some of the information I have gathered so far:

Walgreens Pharmacy Prescription API: Walgreens has a great API for mobile devices (Android/iOS) that allows patients to request refills by either choosing a medicine on their Walgreens account or by scanning a Walgreens barcode. I was able to create an account and get an API key but after reading the fine print: "Prescription APIs are currently only available for integrations on mobile & tablet native applications." This means that I can't do any refill magic (based on inventory in the machine) from my server on the cloud. This isn't the end of the world here because I can still make an android app that interfaces with the Medicine Organizer device as well as the Walgreens prescription API. I can't refill prescriptions from the machine itself, but I can from a smartphone. I have already started to work on a phone app for scanning barcodes and interfacing with the machine. Once I have the basic framework setup I will look into integrating this API into the app.

CVS Prescription API: In theory, CVS should have a a similar API to Walgreens. The documentation is sparse and after several attempts to create a developer account I finally saw an account created success screen. I did not receive an activation email nor can I login with the account I created. FAIL!!! CVS I guess does not have their act together and I will not be pursuing this API any further for now.

eMC: In Europe they have things figured out! There is an online database that has standardized information about every drug available in the EU (thanks for the tip IT-Wizard). The electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) is an easily searchable database of drugs that supposedly can be searched via barcode. I have been able to search by drug name but not barcode. I also can't find an API that will allow me to access this information from my cloud server etc.


I think what this survey shows is that there is a lot of potential to improve the standardization of access to drug information. A new project goal (for 10+ years form now): create an open-access drug database with API for the world that includes information such as:

I think eMC is a good place to start but the differences in American vs. EU health care systems will pose a challenge.

Near term goals:

  1. Integrate Walgreens API into smartphone app in interface with machine
  2. Dig deeper into eMC to see if there is an easy way to extract drug info. Perhaps using curl scripts.

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