Health & Wellbeing

Med Vault aims to eliminate painkiller abuse

Med Vault aims to eliminate pa...
Brigham Young University's Team Med Vault, with their painkiller-dispensing device
Brigham Young University's Team Med Vault, with their painkiller-dispensing device
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A student works on the Med Vault's electronics
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A student works on the Med Vault's electronics
Brigham Young University's Team Med Vault, with their painkiller-dispensing device
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Brigham Young University's Team Med Vault, with their painkiller-dispensing device
The student team working with Med Vault
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The student team working with Med Vault
Dosage information is entered via USB cable
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Dosage information is entered via USB cable
Patients must enter a numerical code in order to actually receive each dose
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Patients must enter a numerical code in order to actually receive each dose
Some of the pill sizes and shapes that Med Vault is capable of dispensing
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Some of the pill sizes and shapes that Med Vault is capable of dispensing
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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.

Patients must enter a numerical code in order to actually receive each dose
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.

Source: Brigham Young University via Gizmodo

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16 comments
ivan4
A good idea but what is there to stop someone revising the dispensing setup from another computer? As long as the USB port is available ther is the ability to hack it.
Joris van den Heuvel
@ivan4: USB access is, of course, password protected. With a proper security method this device can be made virtually unbreakable. Well, apart from physically breaking the device.
Slowburn
Aside from people who intentionally OD simply allowing doctors to stop the pain rather than just reduce it to "tolerable" levels would solve the problem.
nicho
So let me get this straight. A bunch of happy smiling people are proud of building a device that stops people from relieving pain ?
Sam Joy
Why are all these people smiling??...the have the hack to the vault don't they??
VirtualGathis
@nicho: No. They are proud of creating a device that prevents people from killing themselves with dangerous medication, and preventing people using them like street drugs because they are narcotic. If the dosage rates the physician prescribed are not meeting the pain management needs of the patient he or she needs to work with a trained physician to get the right medication and dosages to manage the pain not self prescribe more pills without knowing what the consequences will be. For instance a non-narcotic pain killer that can surprise you is acetaminophen it will cause liver damage if you take more than 4000MG in a 24 hour period. That’s only four doses of two 500mg pills. When you get into the high end pain killers and narcotic pain killers they are vastly more dangerous than that.
I personally applaud this device, provided it works as described. I have had friends who were addicted to pain killers to the point where they would literally break their own leg to get more. One young lady has a note on her medical file preventing anything stronger than Tylenol due to her having “tripped on the steps” five times in the same year and breaking her ankle every time. The password requirement would also prevent her from doing what she did later, and just steal them from friends and family. The regulated dosage would, as the article mentions, prevent people from killing themselves by taking too much.
Jay Finke
How will it stand up to a skill saw ? most abusers are smart enough to figure out how to break into anything.
techmanmacho
So tell me what happens when the power fails and the patient cannot retrieve said medication?.....
Dennis Chevalier
I like it and want one -I use hydrocodone to help with my back problems
Paul Anthony
This is a good solution to a huge problem. It does bring up some questions. How does the cost of such a device work into the current health care coverage? What happens if you are in grave pain and you are 5 minutes away from the next available dosage, are you subject to just suffering until the next available dosage is released? What if you are a full hour away from the next available dose and you are in pain? What happens to the unit when you miss a dose, does it release a second (double) dose? How does it handle overnight sleeping? Can you get the dosage increased remotely by the doctor, or does the patient have to go back in to the pharmacist to have them do it? After asking these questions, I am thinking perhaps this is not a good solution after all.