Vaporware: A Really Big Pill
As the population grows older, more and more pills are joining the daily diet. Some of these pills are vitamins or other dietary supplements, some are over the counter drugs and some are prescription drugs. This collection of pills eventually grows into a job of gathering a stockpile of pills, sorting them out into portions either daily or weekly and then trying to choke down a fistful at a time.
The problem is that virtually every pill available contains a tiny amount of the ingredient you want and a proportionally huge quantity of filler. The filler is often some kind of starch pressed into a form as a carrier for the desired ingredient.
What if the active ingredients in all of the different pills could be combined before adding the filler? This would make it possible to replace a great many pills with one or two easy to handle capsules.
How can this be done with an infinite combination of ingredients? Think automation at the point of sale.
Imagine a whole pharmacy completely populated with the active ingredients in all of the available drugs and dietary supplements found in the modern drug store. Unlike the modern drug store, none of the ingredients would come pre-packaged with filler.
The customer would present a prescription (in whatever technological form is appropriate for local and national laws) and only then would the ingredients be combined and the filler added before dispensing to the customer.
The benefits are many.
- The manufacturing and shipping costs for pill-form drugs would be reduced to a minimum.
- The storage and management of the drugs would require less physical space so a complete pharmacy could fit in relatively small places.
- The active drug ingredients could be completely environmentally controlled from manufacture to final dispensing as needed. This could include reusable bulk distribution packaging that includes tracking sensors to record temperature, humidity, light or any other factors that may reduce the drug effectiveness. Compromised shipping containers could be rejected at any point and never reach a customer.
- If the vending is computerized, negative interactions can be automatically avoided at the vending point.
- Custom imprints (dye or embossing) and colors could be used to signify important items like the name of the patient, the time and frequency of the dose and the expiration date could be put directly on the pills.
- The number of pills the customer must take would be reduced making it much less likely one or more would be missed, lost or taken too often.
- The customer could choose the type of filler and coating to make it easier for children and the elderly to take the pills.
- If biometrics accounting were included in the system, the likelihood of fraud could be reduced and the ability to track fraud and abuse greatly improved.
- If computerized, the likelihood of mistakes could be reduced to near zero by using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags imbedded in the packaging at the point of manufacture. Stocking the machine would then become a very simple task of adding the packages to a queue and letting the machine load it into the appropriate place.
- Pharmacists could spend more time interacting with the customers and less time assembling ingredients. This makes the customer experience much more pleasant at a time when it may be needed most.
- Abbreviated versions of these automated pharmacies could be installed in schools where pain relief may be needed with complete assurance that all allergies and current medications would be considered before dispensing additional drugs to a student.