How Pill Bottles Can Deter Opioid Misuse and Abuse


Special pill bottle caps can help reduce medication misuse and abuse.

Special caps for pill bottles that contain opioids can help reduce medication misuse and abuse.

One of the newer tools in the battle against opioid abuse and misuse is the advanced pill bottle, which allows only the prescribed amount of pain medicine to be released at the right time. Bottles with combination-lock caps are also gaining distribution, as patients seek to keep prescription drugs away from children and those who would misuse them.

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TimerCaps, from TimerCap LLC of Moor Park, CA, are made with a built-in stopwatch. Every time a patient opens the cap, the timer resets to zero. TimerCaps are designed to prevent accidental overdoses by patients who are in pain and who may not realize they are taking their pills too often, but won’t  deter most drug abusers, Larry Twersky, CEO of TimerCap LLC, told Drug Topics.

TimerCapPeople may not know they are taking too many opioids until too late, Twersky said. “The first time you are taking it, it is easy. The second time is hard, because you’re impaired; 20 minutes seem so long when you are in pain.”

The current standard “push and turn” pill bottles do not prevent accidental overdoses, according to Twersky. “Opioids have increased in strength, but the packaging has not changed one iota. Also, they come in the same packaging as other drugs, so people don’t know the difference.”

CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid stores sell TimerCaps that fit their pill bottles for $9.99 each. TimerCap also makes caps for Walgreens’ bottles that can be ordered online.

TimerCap also sells a Bluetooth-connected iCap, which records the dosage taken, and the time the drug was taken. The iCap also alerts patients when it is time for their next dose.

Another pill bottle safety measure is Safer Lock, made by Gatekeeper Innovation, Sacramento, CA. The four-digit combination locking cap was developed to prevent unauthorized access to prescription drugs.

“Drug abuse in the United States has become a major health-care epidemic. It is also alarming to know that young people are among those who most manifest drug problems,” Safer Lock said on its web site. “More than 70,000 children go to the emergency department due to medication poisoning every year.”

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Safer Lock, which retails for $17.99, comes with its own bottle, and fits a wide variety of prescription bottles, according to the company.

Another packaging tool, Pill Pod, is a child-proof lock box for storing medications to keep them out of the hands of children. The containers are outfitted with a combination lock with a random, preset, 4-digit code.

Once the correct combination is aligned beneath the marker, patients simply lift and remove the cover.

“The container itself cannot prevent an accidental overdose, but it can help prevent misuse/abuse. Each container comes with a different preset code that allows it to be unlocked only by the intended prescribed patient or a designated caregiver set up to dispense the meds. It is a deterrent,” said Steve Small, owner and inventor at 4Thought Products LLC in Novato, CA.

While the Pill Pod could be broken into with “excessive force” or stolen by drug addicts, it creates “a barrier to easy access by others while still being convenient for prescribed patients,” Small said. “In that respect, it can keep pills out of the wrong hands, or someone from making the wrong decision to experiment by stealing a few pills out of the medicine cabinet.”

Sold in a few pharmacies, the Pill Pod bottle retails for $19.95. It is primarily distributed to nonprofit coalitions (who receive a 50% price reduction), health departments, school districts, and law enforcement working in prescription drug abuse/misuse prevention.

“This is a preventative device and honestly not a big seller for drug store chains. People don’t really consider buying something that does not provide an immediate benefit in a pharmacy,” Small said.

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