It’s an unfortunate fact that prescription painkiller abuse is on the rise. In some cases people are taking the drugs to get high, while in others, patients simply want more relief than their prescription allows. In either scenario, the results are often fatal. That’s why a group of engineering students from Brigham Young University have created a lockable medication-dispensing device known as the Med Vault.

The students made the device as part of the annual BYU Engineering Capstone program, in which companies sponsor student teams to create products that meet their needs. Blackstone, the company that sponsored the Med Vault team, wanted something to reduce the number of deaths due to overdoses of prescription painkillers.

The idea behind Med Vault is that the patient will start by taking it to a pharmacy, where the pharmacist fills it with the desired medication – it accommodates a wide variety of pill sizes and shapes. The device is then plugged into a computer via USB cable, allowing the patient’s doctor to remotely enter the dosage information.

From that point on it locks itself closed, and will only make pills available on a schedule that allows for the prescribed dosage. Additionally, patients must enter a numerical code in order to actually receive each dose.

Med Vault is break- and tamper-resistant, and will show signs of damage if the patient tries to open it – presumably it automatically unlocks itself when the prescription is used up.

Blackstone president Chris Blackburn, a Las Vegas paramedic who has responded to his fair share of overdoses, plans on taking the device into production.

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