Can This High-Tech Pill Dispenser Curb Addiction?

By Bryan Le 04/16/13

The tamper-free "MedVault" only dispenses pills at a pharmacist's orders. Can it prevent abuse?

The dispenser is pillage-proof. Photo via

Over 100 people in the US die of painkiller overdoses a day, but students at Brigham Young University hope their new high-tech pill dispenser can help bring these numbers down. “The fact that there isn’t a solution to the drug overdose epidemic really drove us,” says Dallin Swiss, a student on the design team. “This provides a missing piece to that national dilemma, and so it matters whether or not we succeed.” Their creation, dubbed the MedVault, is made to safely and securely seal away meds, only dispensing a dose as programmed by a pharmacist over the internet. To make sure no one steals a patient's meds, an access code must also be entered every time it's opened. The case itself is tamper and break-resistant, and ideally a pharmacist could see if the case has been tampered with when the patient brings it in for a refill. “Once narcotics leave custody of the pharmacist and pass into the hands of the consumer, there are no safety mechanisms to keep the patient on their prescription regimen,” says Chris Blackburn, the paramedic sponsoring the project. “The Med Vault is designed to combat the abuse, misuse, overdoses and fraud associated with those drugs.” As of now, their working prototype can only dispense one pill of any size at a time.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter