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Identifying Safe Medication Storage Solutions


Working with students from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, Center faculty Andrea Gielen, ScD ScM, and Eileen McDonald, MS, oversaw the design and development of a personalized, anti-theft and tamper-resistant pill dispenser. A personal pill 'safe' that had tamper resistance, personal identification capabilities, and a locking mechanism that allows only a pharmacist to load the device with pills was envisioned. Weighing in at 2.57 pounds and standing 9.25 inches tall, the electronic prototype was equipped with a fingerprint sensor to ensure that drugs are dispensed only to the prescribed patient at the prescribed intervals and in the prescribed dosage. The cylindrical device was constructed of the same kind of steel alloy used in aircraft landing gear and is equipped with the same kind of fingerprint sensor used in some iPhones to ensure that the medication is dispensed only to the correct patient.  

Since the time of the pill dispenser's creation, interviews with key stakeholders were completed and further enhancements of the device have been made by collaborating with product designers. A patent for the device is pending; the group is also exploring additional marketing options. Other types of locking pill vials that are not tamper-resistant are now on the market and Center faculty are involved in conducting a statewide evaluation of these devices in Ohio.  

Engineering solutions have long been a mainstay of injury prevention, and the Center will continue to use partnerships like this one to advance the field in the future. For more information about this tamper-resistant pill dispenser, check out: