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Beep! It's Time to Take Your Pill



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Embarrassed that she couldn't keep track of her mother-in-law's medications, cardiologist Mary Anne Papp turned creative. The Milwaukee doctor has designed a high-tech, in-home pill dispenser that delivers drug dosages to patients much as an ATM spits out money.

The breadbox-sized device, not yet on the market and with a projected cost of $1,000, beeps and flashes when it's time to take a pill. The device uses mobile phone technology. It also allows pharmacists and physicians remote-control access, which means they have godlike power to monitor dosages and alter time schedules.

The majority of older home-care patients are taking more than five prescription drugs and taking them differently from how they were pre-scribed, according to a recent study in the journal Geriatric Nursing. Meanwhile, some studies show 50 percent of all prescriptions filled are taken incorrectly.

Compliance is one of the hottest issues in the marketplace, said Scott Sonnenschein, an assistant vice president at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. Sonnenschein, who oversees outpatient pharmacies, said the device could be beneficial, but expressed concerns about its cost and whether physicians and pharmacists could handle the additional demand on their time.

The problem is "the number of institutions prescribing or dispensing medications is too broad," said Papp, associate professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who unveiled the machine recently at a medical conference in Las Vegas. "We have to control it at the point of use: the home."

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(Julie Deardorff writes for the Chicago Tribune. Write to her at: the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.)

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(c) 2004, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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