Local researchers test 'talking pill bottle'

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by By LORI MATSUKAWA / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 26, 2009 at 4:25 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Video: Will talking pill bottle make you take your medicine?

SEATTLE - Researchers at the University of Washington schools of pharmacy and nursing are working with Fred Meyer's pharmacy in Renton to see if a talking pill bottle will make it easier and safer for people to take their medicine.

The researchers didn't invent the talking pill bottle, but they are the first to explore how willing we are to listen to instructions from pharmacists and doctors.

The pharmacist simply speaks into the bottle holder's recorder and then attaches it to the prescription bottle. The patient presses a button to hear what the medication is, how often to take it and what side effects to expect.

"This bottle records 30 seconds to a minute (of information)," said Melissa Hansen, Fred Meyer pharmacy manager. "So there's a lot of information we can put in a bottle in that amount of time."

The research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and? could improve compliance by patients who are blind, have difficulty reading the tiny labels or just can't remember what they're told once they leave the pharmacy.

"The patients will sometimes listen to instructions when they're at the counter, ?then they go home and they forget," said professor Annie Lam. "So this is a good way to remind the patient of the message."

The bottle would cost an extra $10, but the current research could convince insurance companies to cover the cost, primarily because taking prescriptions incorrectly can have adverse effects and cost the health care system millions of dollars.

"Upwards of 40 to 50 percent of people don't take their medications as directed," said professor Seth Wolpin. "That's not necessarily because they don't want to. It's sometimes because they misunderstood or the instructions aren't clear."?

Future research would explore recording instructions in other languages and including "pep talks" or encouraging comments to keep people on track.

As for the extra time it takes to record instructions, pharmacist Hansen says it doesn't bother her at all.

"For us, it might be one extra step but if we're giving extra service and customers are getting more out of their prescriptions and have less adverse effects, that's what we're here for," Hansen said.

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