Detailed within a recent news release on the Brigham Young University site, a group of engineering students at the university have developed a pill bottle called the Med Vault that’s designed to prevent prescription painkiller abuse. Conceptually, the device would be electronically programmed by a pharmacist when a prescription for an additive medication is being filled. After connecting the Med Vault to a computer using a USB cable, the interior of the device becomes accessible to the pharmacist and they can start loading the pills. Using the software that comes with the Med Vault, the pharmacist can set the device to deliver a single pill at specific times during the day.
After setting the frequency and timing of pill delivery, the device will automatically close and become locked after the pharmacist unplugs the USB cable. Adding an element of additional security to prevent children from accessing the medication at the dispensing times, the owner of the bottle has to enter an access code on the bottle’s cap in order to trigger the release of the pill.
The engineering team did their best to make sure the bottle was tamper-resistant and break-resistant in order to keep addictive medications locked away from the owner of the Med Vault as well as immediate family members or friends. In an interview with Mashable, one of the team members stated “The physical requirements of the shell and of the material properties are such that you can’t take a hammer to it and break it open.”
While the Med Vault can handle all types of pill shapes and sizes, the device can only store a single medication at a time. Anyone that’s taking multiple types of addictive medications would need to have multiple Med Vault bottles, assuming that person requires this level of strict regulation. The team does not recommend using the Med Vault for medication that may need to be taken in an emergency, only for pills that could become addictive over time and potentially harmful when abused.
Not including labor costs, each Med Vault currently costs about $20 in materials to build. While potentially expensive for managing a single prescription, the use of these types of bottles could reduce the number of insurance claims that are related to people overdosing on prescription painkillers. Patients can reuse the same device as needed and their pharmacist can keep track of the device’s condition as well as the scheduled release of the painkillers. It’s also likely that mass manufacturing of the device would bring the overall cost down.
Chris Blackburn, the sponsor for the team that developed the Med Vault, recently filed a patent on the device and is interested in getting the Med Vault in full-scale production. When asked about the need for the Med Vault in pharmacies, Blackburn stated “Once narcotics leave custody of the pharmacist and pass into the hands of the consumer, there are no safety mechanisms to keep the patient on their prescription regimen. The Med Vault is designed to combat the abuse, misuse, overdoses and fraud associated with those drugs.”