Opioid abuse expert skeptical of pill timing cap effectiveness - Tucson News Now

Opioid abuse expert skeptical of pill timing cap effectiveness

Timed medicine bottle caps. (Source: Tucson News Now) Timed medicine bottle caps. (Source: Tucson News Now)
(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It's just one tool, but it's being marketed to help you avoid medication mistakes.

Timer Caps are being sold at CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide. The product is gaining exposure as a new report surfaces, showing an increase in overdose deaths this summer in Arizona.

According to an Associated Press report, preliminary data appears to show the rise in deaths, even after Governor Doug Ducey declared a health emergency to address the national opioid epidemic affecting Arizona.

Like a stopwatch, Timer Caps resets every time you close the container and begins to displays time passed since last closed, the product website said.

But Timer Caps are very similar to setting a reminder on your phone, or the many other applications out there, including things like MedMinder, according to Stephanie Green, VP of Nursing for CODAC Health Recovery Wellness.

Studies are still being done to figure out its effectiveness.

Timer Caps put out a news release saying the product can help "reduce medication errors."

But Green said it would be misguided to assume the path to opioid abuse is simply a mistake.

"It's assuming that a person is just accidentally mistaking their medication and that if they had a gentle reminder, they would take it appropriately. It's totally ignoring the behavioral patterning behind intentional misuse of medication," she explained.

The latest AP report states health officials can't confirm a definitive increase in deaths until final cause reports are available. But the state report released Wednesday showed Arizona had 280 suspected opioid deaths from mid-June through Aug. 24. A previous report noted 790 opioid total deaths in 2016.

The AP report also said that the state reported there were more than 2,300 suspected overdoses during that period throughout all but one of Arizona's 15 counties.

Green said she does see the positive outcome for someone using the Timer Caps.

"For those who are genuinely, innocently mistaking their medications, yes, it'll help them. Because it deters their risk of becoming dependent or abusing or misusing medication. However, for someone who is intentionally doing it, it's not going to offer any sort of assistance. They're not going to pursue or purchase it. Even if they're family purchases it they're probably going to throw it away. This is not a behavior change."

She believes the Timer Caps could be beneficial for a spouse, child, parent or caregiver, who wants to keep a closer eye on the patient's prescription pill use.

Green believes the next logical step for prescription opioid overdose protection would be limited refills.

"Looking at the way we're filling prescriptions at the pharmacy is going to be imperative. Going to the pharmacy and being able to get 30, 60, or 90 opioid prescription pills is what's really lending to the problem that we're experiencing as a society. These medications are not meant for long-term use. They're meant for short-term pain resolution. If pain persists past six to eight weeks, we need to look at different causes of that pain."

Arizona Department of Health Services officials say the latest report underscores the urgency to take action. The report includes a series of recommendations for law enforcement, opioid legislation, and medical education curriculum across Arizona, the AP said.

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