More than 52,000 Americans perished from drug overdoses in 2015, setting a new record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta, GA). Prescription opioids accounted for a little more than 17,500 of those deaths. A number of measures must be taken to stem this epidemic, but Larry Twersky, CEO of TimerCap LLC (Moorpark, CA) claims that he has a simple, low-cost device that could help: A cap with a built-in liquid crystal display that automatically keeps track of the last time the vial was opened. “The TimerCap is one of the only opioid detection and prevention tools that is applied at the pharmacy level,” Twersky told PlasticsToday.
“It’s really just a stopwatch on top of the medicine bottle,” explains Twersky. Simplicity was deliberately designed into the product. “There are no buttons to press, no alarms to set. The timer restarts each time the bottle is opened.”
The cap, made of high-density polyethylene, is designed to fit medication packaging from Walgreen’s, CVS, Express Scripts and other providers, and is available at approximately 13,000 national and regional pharmacies. The company also manufactures a smart version, the iCap, which includes timers and alerts and works with Medisafe software to capture and transmit reams of user data. But in many cases, especially among elderly users for whom technology may be more of an obstacle than an aid, the simpler form of compliance packaging is more effective. “You just have to know how to open and close the cap. That’s it,” says Twersky.
“Industry needs to promote compliance packaging, and this applies to cannabis, as well, where it is becoming very popular," says Twersky. “As soon as you take your first dose, you start to become impaired. It’s a vicious cycle—the more you take the drug, the more your body metabolizes it, and the less effective it becomes, and you end up taking it more often. We create our own addicts,” he says.
The cap also provides “diversion detection,” adds Twersky: Since the timer restarts each time the bottle is opened, it lets the user know if someone else has had his or her hands in the medicine jar.
The product sells for around $10 for a pack of three caps, but it is not reimbursed, and that is a source of frustration for Twersky. Although it has been assigned a reimbursement code, neither Medicare nor private insurers will pay for it. He is hopeful that this will change in the near future, but he is not holding his breath. “I heard the other day that they have just approved the abacus for one of the government agencies,” he jokes.
Seriously, it does seem like a small price to pay for at least some measure of protection against opioid-related overdoses. Twersky cites a report from the Surgeon General on addiction in America, which states that one of the biggest causes of opioid addiction comes from patients not taking their medications as directed, with the biggest cause of that being forgetfulness. A device that automatically reminds users when they last took their medication seems like