In response to the growing prescription drug problem in this country, students from Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering created a device that would prevent people from abusing their own medication or stealing medication from someone who had a legitimate prescription.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 44 people die each day from prescription painkiller abuse alone. Other actions taken to curb this epidemic have included prescription drug monitoring tools and medication take-back days sponsored by pharmacies and law enforcement agencies. However, nothing had been previously developed to have better control over the prescriptions when they are given from the pharmacist to the person who the pills are intended for.
“We needed this personal pill ‘safe’ to have tamper resistance, personal identification capabilities, and a locking mechanism that allows only a pharmacist to load the device with pills,” explained Kavi Bhalla, one of the team leaders of the project.
The device is a metal tube that has a locking mechanism on the bottom and a fingerprint pad on the top. The bottom of the tube holds the locking mechanism that can be opened by a specific key that only the pharmacist has access to use. When the prescription comes over from the doctor the pharmacist fills the tube with the correct amount of pills and locks the tube with his key. When the patient comes to pick the medication up they are required to load their fingerprint into the fingerprint pad on the top of the tube. When it is time to take their medicine they have to use their fingerprint before the tube will dispense the pills. However, the pharmacist can program the tube to only dispense the medication at the times specified by the physician. This helps to eliminate overuse by the patient and potential overdoses. , as well as prevents other people from gaining access to the drugs.
Their hope is to be able to get a grant to produce more working prototypes to test and then be able to offer the product to a larger market and help save lives through this effective form of intervention.