This application relates to systems and packages for providing multiple customized doses of medications, particularly medications dispensed by pharmacists.
It is basic that dispensing of medicines requires extreme precautions to ensure that a patient receives the correct drug and dosage at the correct time. Since many patients may receive more than one drug and each drug may involve more than one tablet or capsule, the opportunity for error is very great. In hospitals or institutions, the source of error will usually lie with the pharmacist or nurse dispensing the medication. When the patient is taking the medications at home, there is ample room for confusion and error about correct doses and times, especially with patients having visual or cognitive impairment. There is, therefore, need for a system which allows for central packaging of drugs directed toward individual patients, so that the person administering the drug (or the patient, as the case may be) need only check a particular name or identifying code to know that the proper drug and dosage is being given to the correct patient at the correct time. Such a system with individual dosing helps assure that the prescribed medications were actually taken by the patient.
The pharmaceutical packaging industry offers a wide array of dispensers and containers for all types of medications. These packages include conventional pill vials, as well as the now popular blister cards. The present prescription vial, however, offers no checks to either remind a patient of when to take the medicine, or whether the medication has in fact been taken. In those cases where a patient is on multiple medications, a number of different vials only serves to confuse a patient.
Recently, blister cards have overcome a number of the shortcomings of prescription vials and become increasingly popular. Most of the blister packages of this type require specialized packaging machinery for assembly. Such packages have the serious economic drawback that they are difficult and expensive to manufacture on a small or customized scale. Thus it is out of the question for a pharmacist to use blister packaging to customize dosing for a particular individual, particularly when several medications are involved. Moreover, blister packaging in the prior art relies on a thin backing to the blisters or containers holding the medication, which backing is either peeled off or is frangible, so the solid medication can be pushed through it. Both of these operations can be difficult for an impaired patient.
What is needed is a packaging system having inexpensive preformed components that can be filled by a pharmacist with the correct medications for an individual patient, indicate the correct days and times of dosing, and be rapidly assembled by the pharmacist. Further, an improved system should allow the patient to easily grasp and remove an open container for immediate consumption, without the need to first, break loose a blister or capsule, and then, peel off or push through a backing.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the assembled medication dispensing system.
FIG. 2 shows perspective views of the front sheet and containers of an embodiment of the medication dispensing system.
FIG. 3 is a plan view of the front side of a backing sheet in one embodiment.
FIG. 4 is a plan view of the rear side of a backing sheet in one embodiment.
FIG. 1 shows my system (100) for dispensing one or more medications (155) after it has been assembled. A substantially transparent front sheet (110) has containers (130) integrally formed into it. In most applications the containers will be numerous enough that it is preferable to arrange them in rows and columns, as depicted in FIG. 1. In this application the term “medication” is broad enough to refer to both solid or liquid pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements, or pre-packaged medications in dispensers such as bottles or sprays, or syringes, filled or not.
The front sheet (110) may be any substantially transparent thermoplastic or similar material thick enough to be relatively rigid. Examples are polyvinyl chloride or polypropylene sheets having a thickness in the range of 7 to 10 mils, but other functionally-equivalent plastics could be used.
As shown in FIG. 2, each container (130) has a line of weakness (140) scored or pressed into it when the containers (130) are formed. The forming creates containers (130) integral with the remaining plane portion (120) of the front sheet (110), with the opening (150) of each container (130) being defined by the intersection of the container (130) and the plane portions (120) of the front sheet (110). The line of weakness (140) should be located at or near the opening (150) of the container (130). The line of weakness (140) allows a person seeking to open one of the containers (130) to break it loose from the front sheet (110), thus exposing the opening (150) of the container (130) and any medication (155) previously placed in that container (130). This part of the container then acts as a dispensing cup, holding the medication or medications for easy consumption.
FIG. 3 shows the front side (170) of the backing sheet (160). As shown in FIG. 1, the front side (170) of the backing sheet (160) is placed against the front sheet (110) so as to cover the openings (130) of the containers (130), thus holding medications (155) in the containers (130). The backing sheet (160) is made of some non-frangible material and is relatively stiff, so as to hold the assembled system (100) securely and prevent the escape of any medications (155) from the containers (130). Paper cardboard is a suitable material for the backing sheet (160), but other material, such as plastics, or even light metals could be used, since the backing sheet (160) is not intended to be penetrated or removed to release medications (155).
The front side (170) of the backing sheet (160) has indicia (180), which may be printed on it or applied to it. Such indicia (180), optionally including graphic designs, would typically be forms used to enter the name of the patient, the date the system (100) was filled with medications (155) and a prescription reference. In the preferred embodiment, the indicia (180) on the front side (170) of the backing sheet (160) should also show the day of the week and the time of day the patient should take the medications (155) in a container (130) for any particular day. Such indicia (180) are therefore applied or printed on the front side (170) of the backing sheet (160) substantially in registry with the corresponding containers (130). FIG. 1 shows an example of such indicia (180), visible through the transparent front sheet (110). The reader should understand that the indicia (180) and arrangement shown in FIG. 1 is exemplary only, and other indicia (180) or arrangements of the containers (130) could be made as convenient for particular types of patients or medications (155). In other embodiments, the rows could be expanded to three, four or even more, as suitable for particular classes of patients. In particular, the figures show relatively small containers (130) holding pill-type medications (155) but the containers (130) could be made larger to hold liquids in bottles, spray applicators, or syringes, for example.
FIG. 4 shows the rear side (190) of the backing sheet (160). The rear side (190) may optionally have indicia (200) to display additional information, such as the several prescription details shown in the example in FIG. 4.
Preferably, the system (100) is assembled as follows: A pharmacist fills out the information in the forms provided on the backing sheet (160). Then the pharmacist places appropriate medications (155) in the containers (130) according to the prescribed dosing regimen, and places the front side (170) of the backing sheet (160) over the front sheet (110) so as to cover the openings (130) of the containers (130). The backing sheet and the front sheet are preferably permanently affixed to one another by an adhesive, so that at least some part of the plane portion (120) of the front sheet (110) is bonded to the backing sheet (160). Preferably, the adhesive is applied to the backing sheet (160) and covered with a peel-away protective sheet, as is well known in the art. Equivalently, the front sheet (110) and the backing sheet (160) could be fastened together by staples or clips.
In another embodiment, the system (100) may have a security strip (210) formed across rows or columns, or both, of the front sheet (110), passing over the containers (130). The security strip (210) acts to deter young children from removing containers (130) from the system, because it must be cut to access a container (130). The security strip (210) is preferably formed integrally with the front sheet (110), although it could be applied to the containers as a tape.
Since those skilled in the art can modify the specific embodiments described above, I intend that the claims be interpreted to cover such modifications and equivalents.