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We tried out Hema Xiansheng’s new medicine vending machine

What can't you buy from a vending machine in Shanghai?

Photograph: Kimberly Ng
Earlier this month, a healthcare company teamed up with Alibaba’s on-demand fresh food and grocery platform Hema Xiansheng to launch a new vending machine that dispenses over-the-counter drugs – everything from lozenges for a sore throat to topical creams for muscle aches that can be ordered through the Hema Xiansheng app and delivered within 30 minutes. The drugs can also be purchased directly through the machine if you so happen to be in one of its outlets.

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Photographs: Kimberly Ng

Though medicine delivery isn’t a new concept here in Shanghai, the novelty of being able to select and purchase drugs from a vending machine is, so we went on down to the Hema Xiansheng outlet at Baodi Plaza to try it out for ourselves.

It took us a little bit of wandering around to actually locate it (it was in the middle of the store), but apart from that the whole process is as simple as buying a drink from a vending machine. Still, a page of instructions popped up before we got prompted to choose a category of medicines to browse.

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One good thing is that you’ll get to see the ingredients list and instructions of use for each type of medicine available before purchasing, which is helpful for people who are unfamiliar with the brands and drugs. However, the machine was laggy because of poor internet connection within the store.

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It’s also useful to note that payment can only be made through the Hema Xiansheng app, so do download it in advance to save yourself some time. All the information in the machine is currently only available in Chinese, though a representative at the store said future upgrades (that might potentially include an English directory) will be made as the kinks in the machine are ironed out.

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