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‘Prescription Drug Regulator’ Aimed at Curbing Painkiller Abuse

Device dispenses pills only according to doctors’ orders (Apr. 16)

With the help of a Las Vegas paramedic who has seen too many overdose deaths, a group of students at Brigham Young University is doing its best to curb prescription painkiller abuse.

The students have created a tamper- and break-resistant regulating device that dispenses painkillers strictly based on pharmacists’ instructions. The idea is to keep people from taking more pills — accidentally or on purpose — than their bodies can handle.

The device, called Med Vault, must be plugged into a computer by USB cable for the pharmacist to access it and load the pills. The pharmacist then uses software created by the students to specify how often the pills can be retrieved each day.

Once the device is unplugged from the computer, it locks and dispenses only according to those instructions. As an added safety measure, patients must key in an access code on the bottle each time a pill is ready to dispense.

The Med Vault device dispenses all sizes and shapes of pills, but only one at a time. The idea is for patients to reuse the same container for refills, which allows pharmacists to raise concerns if the device has been damaged in any way.

Chris Blackburn, the Las Vegas paramedic, said: “Once narcotics leave the custody of the pharmacist and pass into the hands of the consumer, there are no safety mechanisms to keep patients on their prescription regimen. The Med Vault is designed to combat the abuse, misuse, overdoses, and fraud associated with those drugs.”

A patent has been filed for the invention, and plans are under way to take the students’ prototype into production.

Source: Brigham Young University; April 16, 2013.

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