Craig Lehmann, dean of the School of Health Technology and Management at Stony Brook University, recently invented a vibrating bracelet to help people who are perplexed by difficult medicine regimens.
When it is time for the user to take a pill, the bracelet will vibrate and tell them which pill is necessary. If they do not take the medication within 45 minutes or do not pay attention to the signal, a relative or physician will receive a notification through email or phone.
The bracelet will come with a mechanical box in which all of the medications are sorted.
The box’s programming knows the name of the medicine, the strength and when it needs to be taken.
As more pills are being dispensed, medicine non-adherence is becoming a larger problem. According to Medical News Today, 4.02 billion prescriptions were allotted to patients in the United States in 2011. About half of those medications are not taken as prescribed. Non-adherence causes 125,000 deaths annually, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If patients are on multiple medications with some pills requiring multiple doses per day, the number of ingested pills could exceed 200 per week. People sometimes forget to take a pill or forget if they already took the pill that day if they do not have any help.
“If I take double the amount of blood pressure pills, it’s very dangerous,” Lehmann said. He added that many people are dying from prescription overdose or lack of use.
Lehmann said over 20 percent of the 136.3 million trips to the emergency room recorded by the CDC in 2011 are caused by medicine adherence issues and the problems get “worse and worse as they get older,” therefore the primary intention for the invention was to help the elderly.
“When my mom was sick, she was taking 17 pills, which was a nightmare,” Lehmann said. “I started it about three years ago all because of my mom. I always thought there’s got to be another way.”
Affordability and simplicity were key considerations in creating the bracelet. The estimated cost for the product would be around $300-350 and the initial market would focus on the United States. The plan is to have the device available with a voiceover in many different languages.
The prototype is currently being built.
“We hope to have as close to a final product as we can in a year,” Lehmann said. After that, a brief clinical trial must be conducted to warrant FDA approval, according to Lehmann.
John Brittelli, a clinical assistant professor in the respiratory care program at Stony Brook University, was so enthused by the idea that he decided to join in on the project.
In the past, other companies tried to create solutions to the problem.
Some companies created devices that dispense medication through tubes up to six times per day and cost around $700-800 in addition to monitoring service fees.
Lehmann said that using dispensers is “very challenging,” and several states require a caregiver or nurse to monitor dispensers because of past litigation.
“There are many people who tried to fix this problem, but nothing has seemed to work till this time,” Lehmann said. “I think we got it.”
Mitigating the issue would save huge amounts of money because the total cost estimates for medication non-adherence ranges from $100-289 billion annually and the cost of annual physician visits per patient is around $2,000, according to CDC.
“Everything in medicine has to do with dollars,” Lehmann said.
Students and faculty at the Centers for Molecular Medicine acknowledged that incorrect medication use was a big problem.
“Because people are connected to their phones all the time, it would be really helpful to notify someone and prevent bad things from happening,” Michael Cressy, a lecturer in undergraduate biology who resides in Commack, said. “I think it’s great.”
Lehmann was notified that the invention had strong IP—the probability of being patented.
Lehmann and Brittelli worked on another invention which would notify parents whether an infant rolled onto its stomach, has a fever, or has difficulty breathing while it is asleep, to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.