Monday, 21 April 2008

The Last Lecture

I have recently finished reading "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. It is a book I would recommend to anyone-it's touching and inspirational without being sentimental. It's also possible to download the video of "The Last Lecture" through iTunes

Randy was given three to six months to live. This was, er, six months ago. At the time of reading the book I was not aware of his current status, but he has a blog. There he posts his news and lab results for those of us, in his own words "keeping score at home." It was whilst perusing this blog that I found a post mentioning these very cool-looking pill-bottle designs. It looks as if these were designed for Target in the United States.

The bottles stand on their caps and have a large flat surface that enable a large font to be used. If you have your pharmacy-geek head on then follow the link to his blog, click on the photograph of his meds and work out his meds regime from the photograph.

We don't have anything similar to this in the United Kingdom, at least where I work. We just have boring old plastic pots with clik-lok lids. I think this design would be a lot more useful for patients. I understand that a lot of dispensing is done from bulk in the US, rather than from calendar packs. Anyone know why? Do you all just like counting tablets by hand, or by mechanical counter?

Next time I am in the US I am going to see if I can find a Target and buy/barter for some of these containers.


Andrew, CPhT said...

I work for Target, so I can tell you that the bottle does have some definite benefits, though some of our patients think little of it (the prime example being the color-coded ring; "But I live alone!")

As for why we count from bulk and not calendar packs, it has to do with US law. Calendar packs do not satisfy the legal requirements for being "child resistant," not that any four year old can get the safety caps off of our (or any other pharmacy's) bottle. (Believe me, I'd order the blister packs for everything if I could.)

If you'd like, I can send you some of our bottles by mail (sorry, post). :) Just email me at "andrew [at] chronolink [dot] net" with your address.

-Andrew, CPhT

Phathead said...

Andrew nailed it right on the head. Its rather funny considering that most blister packaged drugs are a pain in the ass to use when you're an adult, yet most children can take off a childproof lid.

Another neat thing about those bottles is that they contain a patient information slip under the label that the patient can pull off. The color coding is obviously the big thing though.

Always wondered how those work in a robot though.

Jaymz said...

I thought they were the coolest thing when they first came out. You may have seen this already, but here's an article from the New York Times about their design.

While I don't work for Target, I have handled the bottles a couple times when patients bring them in for transfers. I have more mixed feels about them now. They cannot be stood up without the lid on them. So, you cannot take the lid off and stand the bottle up. This might be a good thing for the patient - they probably shouldn't have their bottles sitting around without caps on, but I think it would be difficult to fill. They're also more difficult to tell how many pills are left inside, though most patients don't pay attention to that anyhow.

They'd never work with the robots out there now, which probably greatly prevents them from being used many places. I'm sure robots could be made to work with them, but it would be costly to replace the existing ones.

The color coded rings could be used everywhere with a slight modification to the existing bottle style, though it might be a pain. It seems like it might just be easier to use color coded caps if you're going to color code things. However, most Target pharmacies tend to be low volume. Having to color code bottles at a busy pharmacy like mine would add another step to the whole process, and I can just imagine the screams from the patients if they get the wrong colored cap.

Walgreens has since modified their labels to look more like Targets. They're a little cleaner and easier to read. I don't know if other places will follow suit.

Anonymous said...

How inspiring Randy Pausch is! If you liked "The Last Lecture", another fantastic memoir I just read and highly recommend is "My Stroke of Insight" by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Her TEDTalk video ( has been seen as many times as The Last Lecture I think, and Oprah did 4 shows on her book, so there are a lot of similarities. In My Stroke of Insight, there's a happy ending though. It's an incredible story! I hear they're making it into a movie.

Anonymous said...

I believe you don't see those Target bottles anywhere because Target patent it or something like that. I learned that it was some normal graphic designer person that created the bottle because of how her own parents had difficulty differentiating their medicine. Anyways, i believe that with some creativity and innovation, pill bottles can greatly be enhanced for patient safety.

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