A small device could be a game changer at pharmacies to help stop RX opioid abuse

TimerCaps track when the bottle is opened
Posted at 11:07 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-22 23:31:25-04

More than 650,000 pain prescriptions are dispensed from U.S. pharmacy’s every single day.

Big business that's part of the worst addiction crisis in American history, and a key driver in the skyrocketing casualty count from opioids.

"That's 91 people a day are dying due to opioid abuse, that's like a jumbo jet crashing every other day in the United States," said Larry Twersky.

He is on a mission to make a difference. Twersky is the CEO of a company making prescription bottle safety caps to help people manage medication.

They’re called TimerCaps and they fit most pill bottles. The lids have built-in timers that track down to the second how long it's been since the container was last opened.

"Staying adherent to your medication is very important,” CVS Pharmacist Kenrda Prater said. “So having a tool such as this is going to be key to help patient's continuing to take their medication ultimately to help them live longer lives."

The device helps patients take their meds on time with a digital reminder of how often you're popping pills. A simple way to eliminate the guess work to follow doctor's orders.

Having a timer on the lid is not just a safeguard for you, using the clock you'll also know if someone else has opened the bottle. Most people who abuse the potent pills swipe them right out of the house of a friend or relative.

"I would always look in the medicine cabinet,” said Ashley Carr. “I stole medication from a lot of people's medicine cabinets, even people in my own family, so if it was there I was gonna find it and I was gonna take it."

When the opioid pain relievers got too expensive, Ashley started shooting up heroin. It’s the same path to street drugs four out of five heroin users take.

A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins recently surveyed hundreds of families to see if they try to keep prescription opioids out of reach.

"Not surprisingly, we found that only about one-third of households were storing opioids safely," Associate Scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said.

That means keeping the powerful pills behind lock and key, and taking away any chance the cabinet can be raided.

Related: Opioid medications not being safely stored in homes with children, new study finds

"An opioid addiction is so incredibly intense that if I really wanted it I could care less if that person knew or not,” said Ashley. “If I needed it right then and there, I was gonna take it and deal with the consequences later."

If the TimerCaps won't stop people desperate to get their hands on the dangerous meds, they at least can help parents keep a closer eye on the addictive drugs lining the shelves.

"Being more vigilant in your medicine cabinet is important,” Twersky said. “That's where we see the TimerCaps play an important role because most people don't have a locking medicine cabinet, but they can have a level-one safety, which is what a TimerCap is."

Twersky recently met with lawmakers in D.C. to push for TimerCaps or similar products to be mandatory with every opioid prescription dispensed.  He says it's not a magic bullet, but the device can be part of the solution.

Pill packaging hasn't been updated since the 1970's. Other tamper resistant pill dispensers are also being developed to make storing opioid meds safer.