Fingerprint recognition, locks could be coming to pill bottles
7:14 p.m. Monday, March 28, 2016 - Atlanta, GA
Fingerprint recognition locks could be coming to pill bottles. Imagine a prescription drug bottle that only can dispense your medication at the exact time you should take it, in the proper amount and only after it scans your fingerprint and confirms your identity.
Or another bottle with a combination lock that looks like it came off a bicycle lock.
Inventors of both products and others that prevent abuse, ensure adherence and curtail accidental overdoses unveiled their work Monday night at the National RX Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, the largest national collaboration of professionals involved in fighting prescription drug and heroin abuse.
Among the most high-tech devices: TAD, named after the ubiquitous instruction — Take As Directed.The mobile medication dispenser incorporates fingerprint recognition, cloud-based data storage and Bluetooth technology . The idea is to deter overdoses, thwart illegal prescription drug sales and help elderly patients remember to take their meds.
“Technology has a role to play with better health care outcomes,” said Sam Zamarripa, president of Intent Solutions, which created TAD. “This is taking prescription drug monitoring to the internet of things.”
TAD can be used with any medication and works like this: Your doctor writes a prescription. A pharmacist programs TAD with the dosage of the medication and directions for use. A small rectangular box, the same orange color as a traditional prescription bottle, is attached to TAD with the medication. The box cannot be removed and if tampered with, TAD will alert the pharmacist.
TAD sends a reminder to the patient when it is time to take the medication. The patient places a finger on a small scanner embedded in TAD, which reads the fingerprint and confirms the patient’s identity. Because TAD only dispenses one dose at a time, it deters overdoses and prevents patients or dealers from accessing larger amounts of the drugs to sell.
It also can help the elderly remember their medications and help researchers conduct drug studies under controlled circumstances.
The company initially hopes to target treatment centers. With more addicts turning to medication-assisted treatment with drugs such as buprenorphine, TAD would ensure that recovering addicts do not abuse drugs or sell them. TAD also could be used to ensure that recovering addicts and alcoholics who need pain medications after surgery or an accident don’t relapse.
That’s where the idea came from. TAD co-founder Martin McLean, a recovering alcoholic, was prescribed a painkiller after surgery. He became addicted. In and out of treatment, he vowed that if he got clean he would create a product that would allow recovering addicts and alcoholics to safely use painkillers and other drugs.
Company officials displayed a prototype of TAD at the conference. Researchers at Johns Hopkins are using TAD in a clinical trial for a drug under development. If all goes well, the company hopes TAD will be in use at treatment centers within two years.
How much TAD will cost isn’t known. However, it can be reused.
Colorado anesthesiologist Dr. Sean Serell took an old school approach to drug-abuse prevention: the technology that makes a bicycle lock work — a four-digit combination lock. His product, Safe RX, came about after he watched five of his colleagues become addicted to prescription pain medication despite strict hospital dispensing rules.
Unlike TAD, which focuses on adherence to instructions, SAFE RX focuses on prevention.
Serell, a father of two young children, hopes Safe RX will prevent unauthorized access to addictive prescription drugs by teens and children. He also hopes that children will learn that because SAFE RX bottles look different than traditional prescription bottles, children will learn that the drugs in SAFE RX bottles are dangerous.
“There has been no legislation since 1970 about packaging,” said Serell, referring to the Poison Prevention Act of 1970, which mandated child-resistant packaging. “By changing the packaging it will raise awareness that this medication needs to be treated differently.”
A pharmacist sets the combination when filling the prescription with a SAFE RX bottle and is the only person who can change it. The bottle, which is made of heavy, tamper-resistant plastic, can be reused. Best of all, Serell expects it will only cost $1.
SAFE RX is not yet available but several local pharmacies in Colorado have agreed to use it, Serell said.
“These should become the new standard of care,” Serell said.