Almost half of all adults in England have taken at least one prescribed medicine in the past week – and for many it’s not easy to keep up. But there are a number of gadgets that claim to help make taking medication easier.
Adrian Monti asked Ben Merriman, a clinical pharmacist in Cumbria, and Mohammed Hussain, a community pharmacist in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, to make a selection. We then rated them.
Blister packaging gun
Pivotell Pill Popper Tablet Blister Gun, £23.99, pivotell.co.uk
Claim: This handgun pushes “tablets out of a blister pack easily and quickly,” says the manufacturer. You place a blister pack under the flexible pad at the end of the device and pull a trigger that presses the pad onto the pill and pushes it out.
Expert Verdict: Ben Merriman says: “Blister packs can be very fiddly for people with dexterity problems such as those with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s. So this gadget could especially benefit these patients.
“But if you’re struggling with this, your pharmacist can take pills out of blister packs and put them into more accessible containers for you.
“While this appears to be a fairly easy device to use, it may not be helpful for all medications, such as those that come in metal-backed blister packs that need to be peeled off rather than the pills having ‘popped out’.”
Pivotell Pill Popper Pill Blister Gun
Talking pill box
Large weekly pill organizer with alarm, from E-Pill Medication Reminders, £74.86, amazon.co.uk
Claim: This plastic tray has four rows of seven squares for each day of the week and different times of the day – e.g. morning, noon – on each lid. Its digital timer can then be programmed with a voice alert, such as: “Please take your morning pills for the 20th”.
Expert verdict: Mohammed Hussain says: “We call these types of products compliance tools; They are designed to contain unit doses of medicines to be taken at specific times. There is a real problem with many patients not taking medications the way they should or when they should.
“So in a way this type of device is good, but I think this device is way overpriced for what is essentially a pill case and a timer.
“I could also see that mistakes were being made in the management of so many pills that are unlabeled and not in their original packaging. If you have a smartphone, you can easily set alarms on it.
“Or a pharmacy can put together a box with all the medicines in separate compartments at no extra cost [known as a dosette box]. In these boxes, each slot is sealed under plastic (to make it easy to see if the pill has been taken) and carefully labeled e.g. B. with size and color, so that a layman can easily recognize which tablet is which.”
Two-part pill splitter, £6.99, amazon.co.uk
Claim: This set contains two scissors with stainless steel blades. The blades make it possible to evenly halve, third or quarter a square, oval, round or rectangular tablet with a diameter between 5 mm and 10 mm.
Expert Verdict: Ben Merriman says: “Because some medications are not available in smaller doses, for example where a 5 mg tablet is the lowest strength available but a 2.5 mg dose is needed, it may be necessary to take them yourself to downsize. (Especially when they need to be kept in their packaging for as long as possible, lest they deteriorate from light, air, and moisture.)
“Cutting pills isn’t ideal, but specialty scissors like these might be the least bad option, as they provide a fairly accurate cut.
“Note that tablets have an enteric coating [to protect them from stomach acids degrading them] or medicines intended for gradual release of doses should not be divided: only cut tablets with a mark, e.g. B. A cross line in the middle, indicating that they can be made smaller.
“A product like this is much safer and more precise than kitchen scissors, for example. However, speak to your pharmacist if you are unhappy with the pill crushing.’
Pill Mill Pill Crusher, £15.99, amazon.de
Claim: This stainless steel device is about the size of a pepper mill. You can put up to 50 pills in the cylinder, close the lid and turn the long hand crank to grind the pills into a fine powder. Its maker says, “No effort or force is required to use our pill crusher, resulting in a fast and smooth grind perfect for those with arthritis.”
Expert verdict: Mohammed Hussain says: “Crushing pills is dangerous. For example, many tablets have a glossy enteric coating so the drug is not released until it reaches the small intestine. This coating would be destroyed by grinding.
“In addition, many tablets, e.g. Those with morphine, for example, are designed to release the drug slowly so the patient doesn’t get a big hit. Abrasion would destroy this vital feature.
“The fact that it can hold so many pills also makes it very dangerous as you can’t control the dose. I would urge people never to grind their pills – if you are having trouble taking your pills ask your pharmacist if you can have them in liquid form.
Pill Mill Pill Crusher
Ezy dose of Medi-Spout, £34, ninelife.uk
Claim: Designed for “anyone with dysphagia, dysphagia, or who doesn’t like that taste of pills,” this reusable plastic spout screws onto most standard water bottles. A pill can be dropped down the spout and when the user takes a sip, they swallow the pill as well.
Expert verdict: Mohammed Hussain says: “Swallowing pills or capsules can be a real problem for some people, but I don’t think this expensive spout is really a solution.
“As soon as many tablets come into contact with water, they start to dissolve, which makes antibiotics like metronidazole taste metallic and make you choke. This spout only puts the tablet in your mouth and not down your throat, so doesn’t solve the problem.
“A little coaching and trying to understand why people get swallowing difficulties from the pharmacist can help.
“Tips like tilting your head back and not lifting your tongue after a sip of water, so not concentrating on the pill and letting the water go down your throat, often work. Fruit juice can mask the taste – but avoid hot drinks as they will dissolve the tablet.”
Ezy dose of Medi-Spout
Jokari Pill bottle opener with magnifying glass, £3.54, mobilitysmart.co.uk
Claim: This palm-sized plastic device fits the cap of medication bottles and is ribbed inside and out for a better grip. It has a built-in magnifying glass to help read labels.
Expert verdict: Mohammed Hussain says: “Patients who have difficulty removing child-resistant lids is a problem that we deal with frequently.
“It is a legal requirement for all medicines to be supplied in child-resistant containers, but pharmacists can replace them with easier-to-open ones if the patient so requests.
“This is a handy device – it’s cheap and it does two important jobs: it helps with capping of any size, while you can use the magnifying glass to make sure you’re taking the right medication (always examine your pills carefully to make sure it’s not). familiarize yourself with what they look like).
“Although pharmacists can often print out larger labels if you have trouble reading standard labels, this is a really useful gadget.”
Grabber for needle phobia
Tickleflex Insulin Injector, £14.95, tickleflex.com
Claim: This small gripper-like accessory fits onto the end of a standard insulin injection pen. Its maker says it makes injecting “a safer, more convenient, more consistent, and worry-free process.” The tiny textured “fingers” grasp a fold of skin, hold it in place and tickle the skin, creating a distraction to mask the pain; it can also “substantially reduce” bruising by preventing “the needle from going in too deep.”
Expert verdict: Mohammed Hussain says: “In theory, the distraction approach of tickling the skin is a good idea, but in reality the injection is not painful.
“Modern insulin pens are well designed, so I don’t see a real need for them: the needles are tiny – only 4mm long, you can hardly see them. While modern injection pens use disposable needles, you reuse them over and over again, so you need to keep them clean between each injection, which can be multiple times a day.
“The manufacturer says this might stop bruising, but if the user rotates the injection sites on their body frequently, bruising isn’t likely to be a big problem.”
Tickleflex insulin injection device
Gloup, 150ml tube, £8.99, gloup.shop
Claim: The manufacturer says this offers a “simple, safe and effective” solution to make pills easier to swallow.
It is a thick gel that masks the taste of pills after squeezing a teaspoon over the pill before swallowing them together.
The manufacturer suggests that it also boosts saliva production to help with swallowing and states that it shouldn’t interact with medications.
Expert verdict: Ben Merriman says: “Swallowing difficulties are becoming more and more common in adults, especially with diseases of the nervous system such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease or dementia.
“There is evidence that a product like this can help some people swallow medication more easily. Some medications should be taken on an empty stomach to ensure they are properly absorbed. The manufacturer says the gel breaks down so it doesn’t interfere with the absorption of medication.
“Some medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect, so this mouth-watering could be useful for these patients. However, it should only be used with solid oral dosages, not with dispersible, dissolvable, or effervescent tablets, liquids, or powders.
“If someone is having trouble swallowing pills, I would try to find out what is causing the problem. Talk to your pharmacist about taking medicines in a different formulation, e.g. B. as a liquid.’