For many patients, a cap on the pill bottle represents just another hurdle to taking their medications. But a number of new types of pill bottle caps are designed to help patients take their medicine on time, to prevent abuse and avoid medication errors.
Today’s childproof pill bottle caps came about in the 1970s in response to a spate of lethal aspirin poisonings — some 120 per year — in the 1950s and 1960s. The Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 authorized the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop regulations requiring special child-resistant packaging for toxic substances commonly used at home.
Under the rules, caps had to prevent 80 percent of children under 5 from getting to the pills inside. Those caps have been incredibly successful. A 2002 analysis from the commission found that the child-resistant caps lowered the death rate by about 34 percent.
Those caps, however, have been equally challenging to open for older adults and other patients with physical limitations. They’ve also done little to prevent overdoses or diversion of medications by older children or adults.
That’s where technology has stepped in a to build a better bottle cap. Various manufacturers have developed caps with timers or other mechanisms that remind you when it’s time to take your medicine, let you know if you’ve already taken them or to alert you if someone else might be getting into your pills. •
TimerCaps have a built-in stopwatch with an automatic sensor that starts counting up the hours, minutes and seconds since the bottle was last opened. That can help you determine whether you took your last dose of medication, and can let you know if someone else is getting into your pills. The caps fit most standard pharmacy pill bottles, but are also available in larger sizes allowing you put your pharmacy-issue pill bottle inside. The larger containers can fit a pack of cigarettes and a lighter for those who are trying to cut back on smoking.
The iRemember pill cap fits on top of stackable medication compartments that can represent various days or various times of the day. The talking cap keeps track of when you last opened the pill container. Press the status button on the top of the cap and iRemember will flash green while saying when it was last opened. That’s particularly handy for individuals with vision problems who might have trouble reading a timer. The cap can connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone to send reminders to you or to someone else, allowing family members to track whether the pills are being taken on schedule. But a smartphone is not required for operation. The cap recharges via a USB port located under a small door on the side of the lid. The iRemember can be purchased on Amazon.com at a price of $49.50
The Medikyu pill bottle cap detects the opening and closing of the cap to track doses. It’s paired with a smartphone app that sends alerts and reminders when it’s time to take your dose, when you forget or miss a dose or if you’re about to double-dose. The app can also be programmed to send notifications to a caregiver or family member. Notifications can also be sent via text message for those who don’t use a smartphone. The cap is powered by a rechargeable battery using a standard micro USB charger. You can monitor your progress on your app with a display of your dosing history. The cap lights up when it’s time to take a dose and has an audio alarm that can be silenced, say if you’re going to the movie theatre with the pills in your purse. Medikyu can be purchased for $34.87 on Amazon.com or at Medikyu.com.
Pillsy automatically tracks doses taken every time you open the pill bottle. The cap must be programmed with a smartphone, but once the schedule is set, can be operated without opening the app. Pillsy sends reminders only if you miss a dose, the cap beeps and blinks, and you’ll get notifications on your phone. If you’re not near your pills when it’s time for your scheduled dose, Pillsy will remind you when you come into range. If you forget you’ve already taken a dose and open the cap once again, Pillsy beeps to ensure you don’t double up. The app shows dosing history and can be programmed to send notifications to a caregiver or family member. Pillsy can be purchased for $44.95 on Amazon.com and is available in many chain drug stores.