Automating hospital pharmacy services

The Pyxis® and Kardex® automated carousel systems to control and dispense drugs and medical supplies

Technical file

Type of innovation: System

Scope: Hospital Pharmacy

Innovation leader: Shared leadership

Year: 1997

Period: 1972-2002

Geographical scope: International

Economic impact: High

Level of innovation: Disruptive

Patent: Yes

Interdisciplinary connections: -

In the last 30 years, hospital pharmacy services have undergone a transformation. Whereas, traditionally, their job was simply to store and dispense drugs and other supplies, they now play a key role in ensuring the safe and effective use of medicines, and in controlling expenditure. Grifols pioneered this transformation in Spain, with the introduction of the Kardex® automated storage system and the Pyxis® automated drug-dispensing system.

“Automated carousels were employed in other industries, such as the automobile sector, where they were used for components… In 1997, Grifols adapted the rotating cabinets and carousels to store and dispense unit doses of drugs.”

From automobile components to hospital medicines

Automated carousels were employed in other industries, such as the automobile sector, where they were used for components. The idea of adapting the Kardex® carousel to the hospital pharmacy came from a visit to Germany to attend an engineering congress. In 1997, Grifols became the first pharmaceutical company in the world to automate hospital pharmacies when it adapted the rotating cabinets and carousels to store and dispense unit doses of drugs. This, in turn, required the development of a software program, Mercurio®, to control the new system.

Kardex located in Hospital de Sant Pau. Barcelona, Spain.
Pyxis MedStation 3500 System.

Dispensing drugs and medical supplies

In 1999, Grifols obtained an exclusive distribution contract for Pyxis®, a system produced by US firm, Cardinal Health. This functioned like a cash dispenser for drugs and medical supplies, enabling very precise control of the stock of products in hospital services, the hospital pharmacy, and in the individual stores in each ward. In addition to supplying and installing the system, Grifols trained new users and provided ongoing customer support.

Key to the Pyxis® system is the fact that it is a closed system that only dispenses the medicines prescribed for each patient. This reduces waste and also improves safety by preventing dispensing errors. The system also offers other advantages, such as freeing up staff time to concentrate on patient care and providing real-time information about inventory levels.

An integrated system

Grifols then took the innovative step of linking the two systems with a single software program. This meant that the whole process of storing and dispensing hospital medicines could be controlled automatically, with Kardex® used in the central stores and Pyxis® being used in the sub-stores on each floor or ward. Grifols also pioneered the use of this technology in other markets, installing it across Europe and Latin America.

In 2006, Grifols released an electronic prescription and hospital pharmacy management program, called Silicon®. This software runs on Unix and uses web technology to improve safety by sharing information between medical, nursing and pharmacy professionals. It performs an initial validation to check there are no dosage, frequency or duration errors in the prescription, before sending it to the pharmacy, where it is validated by the pharmacist.

Grifols model for the integrated management of medicines and disposable supplies has continued to develop, and currently consists of a selection of high-tech products that encompass both central pharmacy management and the individualized administration and monitoring of patient medication.


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