These pharmacists moonlight as inventors

May 22, 2006

The new TV show, "American Inventor," doesn't have a lock onoriginal inventions. Pharmacy has its share of inventors, too.

Just ask Frederick Hirth, a Phoenix-based pharmacist who for some time has been striving to bring his invention-designed to help patients reduce the risk of mixing up their medications or taking them improperly-to the marketplace.

The still unnamed product itself is a rather simple design: a curved, contractible plastic ring that is universal in size so that it easily fits over all types of vials and medication bottles. The ring contains a label area in which the patient can write what the medication is to be taken for, such as heart or pain. "It is such an easy device, one would think it should have been [developed] years ago," said Hirth, a pharmacist with Fry's Supermarket, a division of Kroger stores.

That solution seemed easy enough; however, Hirth was concerned about the legalities of writing a single description on Rx labels. What about multipurpose drugs? For example, Lopressor (metoprolol, Novartis) is prescribed for migraines and blood pressure. "If I write blood pressure and they're using it for migraines, am I going out of my area of expertise? I felt skittish about doing that, but with this label, the patients can write what they want to on it," thereby releasing the pharmacist of any liability, he explained. "The last thing I say to patients is if you have any questions, you can always give me a call and sure enough when they get home, they call."

Hirth has developed other products over the past 13 years, including a device to magnify prescription labels, adding that "all of my products are designed to help people."

Meanwhile, across the country in Mountaintop, Pa., another pharmacist is working to reduce patient anxiety by another means-creating relaxing board games designed for family fun and entertainment. John Yuscavage, Ph.D., R.Ph., co-owner of Triangle Pharmacy, has been developing board games since the 1980s and has so far had two games available on the market-Trivagory and his latest, Picture+this.

Picture+this is designed for ages 12 and up and requires two teams of players to solve picture-word puzzles within 45 seconds with as few clues as possible from team members. The first team to score 30 points and move their pawn across the finish line wins. Each game includes 288 picture-word cards.