Prescription drug overdoses have become a prevalent and serious issue in the United States and across the rest of the world. When thinking about this epidemic we thought that many of these deaths were senseless and could be preventable. This is why we created DiNA. DiNA is a smart pill bottle that would recognize the DNA of a patient or caregiver and dispense only the necessary prescription at the correct time to the user. Our invention would also be connected with an app to remind the user when it was time to take their medication.
In ensuring that the correct person is taking the prescribed amount of pills at the right times, we hope that drug abuse and overdoses would decrease.
“Forgetting” has become one of the primary reasons behind medication non-compliance. However, recent technology has developed a way to remind patients to take a pill at a particular time. The low technology solution is a pill organizer where people place the pill in compartments associated to the scheduling regime.
The electric pill organizers include audials and visuals reminders that goes off at scheduled time. The high technology solution is the MedGlider Talking Reminder created by MEDPort. It is a pill organizer with a timer that beeps or shines a light when a pill should be taken. This technology, however helpful, would not solve the issue of purposely taking too many pills that the DiNA would address.
Another device that is currently available is the MD.2 Personal Medication System.
This is a pill dispenser and an alarm that is both visual and auditory that automatically reminds the person when to take their medication and automatically dispenses a pill when a button is pressed. This too does not completely solve this issue of overmedicating because a person could press the button multiple times with nothing stopping them.
Another option that is on the market at this time is Pillsy. Pillsy is a pill bottle whose cap is connected with an app designed to remind the prescription holder when to take their medicine. Once the cap has been opened the app will mark that the prescription has been taken. However, unlike our invention, Pillsy does not stop you from taking more than the prescribed amount.
Current DNA technology available includes forensic databases such as used by the police and paternity and genealogy tests that help identify people’s patronage and their heritage. The police today collect DNA from a crime scene and then send it to a lab where the DNA is analyzed and then run through a forensic database to find a match. The FBI currently uses a database called CODIS or the Combined DNA Index System. This process can take anywhere from 24-72 hours to find a match.
Another common use of DNA technology are paternity tests. The first step in a paternity test is a mouth swab from both the child and the alleged father which is then taken by a doctor or the sample collector. Forensic experts then study the two sample’s DNA and compare the two samples seeing how much they have in common. After this information is examined whether the biological connection can be confirmed to denied. This entire process can take up to 5 days from when the lab received the DNA samples.
Perhaps the most common use of DNA technology today is genealogy tests such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe. With an at home test and a saliva sample, you can find out your heritage in two months. After receiving your sample, the DNA is digitized and turned into a long string of letters assigned to the four nucleobases of the DNA. These letters are then entered into an algorithm that can determine the meaning of the strands. The algorithms used are kept under wraps but they seem to pull out patterns from the sample. After analyzing this information they can then send back their results.
In 1983, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) DNA testing was developed to analyze similar DNA sequences. The PCR was founded by Kary Mullis, an American biochemist. PCR amplify DNA segments and determines the identity of the source according to the DNA. PCR testing requires less DNA, which makes a cheek swab a more fitting sample for testing. During the 1990s, PCR testing was the fastest analysis for generating results. This testing is used in paternity tests, which is when DNA from two biological parents and the child are tested. The results are expected to match to both the biological parents.
Also included in our invention is the pill bottle. Pill bottles evolved in many different shapes, especially in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Pill bottles were first made of glass and were similar to liquor bottles. But, medicine was going under a photochemical reaction, which is when the medicine is damaged by light. To prevent this problem, pill bottles were coated with a color. The most common colors are amber and orange because it had a low production cost. Another problem with pills being damage is being knocked around in the bottle. In the early 1900s, Bayer added cotton balls to their pill bottles because the powdery pills were breaking. Broken powdery pills could influence an improper dosage. But in 1999, Bayer stopped putting cotton in their pill bottles because pills were protected by coating. Another problem that arose was that children were capable to open pill bottles intended for adults. This caused the death of 100 kids each year. Dr. Henri J. Breault of Tecumseh, being a father of two, didn’t want his children to be exposed to his pills. At 3:00am, he told his wife he had to do something about this problem. He had many abortive attempts, he soon created “The Palm N’ Turn” pill bottle cap. Breault’s invention drastically dropped the rate of children’s death by ninety-one percent.
“In 2014, more than 1,700 young adults died from prescription drug (mainly opioid) overdoses—more than died from overdoses of any other drug, including heroin and cocaine combined—and many more needed emergency treatment” (NIH). Our invention will decrease the amount of drug abuse in the world, and, therefore, suicide and death. The elderly sometimes have a difficult time remembering their doses, but our invention will solve that. Intentional drug abuse will be prevented because it will only dispense the necessary amount. Fifty-three percent of prescription opioid abusers take them from another person (Talbot). By using our invention to identify who is taking the pills, it will be much more difficult for such theft to take place.
The invention itself will be the same color as most modern prescription pill bottles. It will have a cylindrical shape with an orange tint, to avoid photochemical reactions. Rather than just being a hollow container, there will be a spiral trays (similar to a gumball machine). This will allow the correct amount of pills to be dispensed with each use. A drawer on the bottom will open for a specific time to allow the pills to fall out efficiently without every pill falling out. A design without the spiral trays wouldn’t perform as efficiently. The cap on the bottle would be slightly larger than a standard prescription bottle in order to incorporate our DNA technology.
The technology of the DiNA will be a mix of a DNA fingerprint and a small DNA database. By mixing the two forms of DNA profiling, it will be easy to find a connection between two DNA samples. Within the top of the bottle, there will be code for a mini database containing only one other DNA sample. While normal DNA profiling will take a while, this will only take a few minutes as it is only comparing two samples. The database will be powered by a high-capacity battery; it will rarely need to be replaced. If it were to run out of power, the pharmacy will be supplied with and able to put in replacements.
The DNA first sample will be obtained when you first are prescribed the medication, so there should be an adequate amount of time to implement your DNA into the mini database. That sample’s polymerase chain reaction (copies) will be used to open the bottle in the future, for refills; having the bottle being reusable will make up for the cost over time. It will be designed so that only doctors and pharmacists are able to take the cap off with a special computer program.
The second sample will occur when the pill needs to be taken. This sample will be compared to the first sample and the single nucleotide polymorphism (type of DNA mutation also known as SNPs (Thurman and Paladino 15)) or variations between individual’s DNA can be matched. If needed, there can be two DNAs inputted when there is a caregiver involved. They will be matched to the previous sample through agarose gel electrophoresis process.The DNA fingerprinting is shown not only in the fact that there are two DNA samples involved, but in how the samples are obtained.
The samples of DNA will be a cheek swab. This is because the cells on the inside of your cheek are sequence epithelial cells and have a large nucleus to extract DNA from. Sterile swabs will be provided when you renew your prescription. There will be a small compartment in the top of the bottle to put your used swab; you will leave it in for a few minutes while the sample on the swab is compared to the initial swab. There will be a small light on the top that turns green when the DNA is done being scanned. From there, the amount of pills you are prescribed will come out the bottom of the bottle. The bottle will only allow you to scan once every amount of time your doctor tells you to take the pills. (For example, the bottle will only allow one pill to be dispensed twice a day.)
An optional part of each DiNA will be an app that can remind you to take your pills. The point of this invention is to help avoid drug abuse by taking too many pills, but the app could aid elders who often forget their pills. The app itself will have reminders sent to your phone. It will have Bluetooth capabilities that can connect to an Alexa or Google Home. The smart devices will respond to the command “When was the last time I️ took my pills?” All of these components will make pill usage more safe and efficient.
In order for our invention to become a reality, a couple events must happen. The database that recognizes only one person’s DNA would have to be created and tested in order for DNA recognition to occur. We will need to create an automated agarose gel electrophoresis algorithm that can detect similarities in DNA in a very short period of time. Another possible route for the DNA fingerprinting to go would be using DNA probes, which are usually done in a lab and take up to two hours. From research, we determined that in the future the technology involving data and computers will be much more accessible, making it cheaper. Therefore, we determined that DNA probing would not be as efficient as using a database. Our invention would also need to have some sort of funding for the pill bottle to be produced. Once this happens, doctors would have to begin shifting their patients to this type of pill bottle.
To perfect this algorithm, we must repeatedly test different types of databases in order to find the best. We could use some redundant elements to hopefully lessen the amount of malfunctions. If all of this occurs we would hope that some legislative action may be taken to make our bottle the standard, just as child proof caps were. By making our pill bottle the standard, the amount of drug abuse and overdoses would hopefully decrease dramatically.
In order to arrive at our current design many changes occurred. Our original idea for our bottle was to use fingerprints instead of DNA, but after some more research we decided that DNA would be a more secure method. We then thought that the DNA necessary would be collected by skin cells. However, it soon became apparent that this method would not work because the skin cells would have to be dead in order to collect them. Finally, we arrived to the conclusion that using a sample of saliva would yield the best results because these cells are still alive and have a large nucleus that is perfect for collecting DNA. In addition, we came to the conclusion that having our invention connect to an app would allow the user to remember their pills more easily.
Using DiNA will decrease the rate of drug abuse and remind elders experiencing dementia into taking the accurate amount of drugs, but it will also raise privacy issues. The DNA of each individual is identified by a special piece of chip which databases are inserted from the doctor’s office. Like most recent technology with biometric, the databases can be hacked. Some hackers might find a way to create DNA that will match and use it to sell to patients. Therefore, privacy issues is one of the negative consequences of DiNA.
Overall, the effect of the DiNA pill bottle will benefit society by reducing the amount of pill abuse. Intentional drug abuse will be avoided by both the timer setting and the identification. The timer, allowing the prescribed to only take the pills as necessary, will limit the amount of pill abuse by the actual owner of the pills. The DNA identification will allow for only the owner to access the pills, decreasing the amount of pills being stolen.
Another potential negative consequence of our invention is the price of pill bottles. Because our bottle would involve technology and a personalized bottle to the patient or caregiver it may be costly to produce. However, once you buy the pill bottle you would not need to buy one again making up for the cost difference over time.
A further possible detriment to our invention would be if the correct DNA was not recognized or another mechanical error. If this occurred a patient would not be able to access their prescription which could lead to complications of their health. However, we would encourage having two bottles in case this occurred as well as allowing one to be refilled while still having the other available.