EDITORIAL: Urgent Needs
As an industrial designer for 28 years, Michael Burridge has worked on products that could take lives. Now he is excited to be working on a device that he says could potentially save lives.
Burridge and his business partners, who include a retired dentist and a retired scientist, have patented three designs that ease access to critical drugs during an emergency. Potential drugs include nitroglycerin, antihistamines, or insulin. The most recent patent is for EasyOut, a self-contained dispenser for OTC blister-packaged drugs. The patents are held by ViaLabs Inc. (Santa Barbara, CA).
The idea came about after one of his partners, who suffers from a heart condition, complained about nitroglycerin packaging. Burridge then “read horror stories of people struggling to open bottles of nitroglycerin, often with one arm paralyzed from a heart attack.” His partner asked him to consider designing a friendlier package. “He said it needed to be something that could be used with one hand and [provide] the inert environment needed for nitroglycerin,” says Burridge.
Burridge decided to focus on blister packaging, given its ability to preserve each dose with barrier film. (He also says he appreciates the role blister packaging can play in compliance.) He decided to design a device that would enable patients to eject tablets from the blister package with one hand. “Existing drug containers for nitroglycerin require the use of two hands to open, and the pills are so small they’re hard to pick up and place under the tongue,” he says. “Also, it can be hard to push fragile tablets through blister film.”
While first iterations were external devices, he settled on an internal one that cradles the tablet and is sealed inside the blister. “With this design, a user places the ejector area of the dispenser under the tongue, and finger pressure ejects the medication,” he explains.
EasyOut evolved from an earlier design called the Episode-Pak. This credit-card-sized package can hold three doses of an urgently needed drug. This package also features an internal ejector. A third design is a blister strip with an internal ejector placed in a pendantlike case that can be worn around the neck.
Burridge says he is facing one challenge—balancing child resistance with senior friendliness. “It is the conundrum of the industry,” he notes. “Packages must be easy for the elderly to use, but hard for children.”
Burridge, who serves as director, product development, for ViaLabs, says he and his partners—Kenneth Gaynes, CEO; Donald George, president; and Dean Upton, partner—have presented their devices to one nitroglycerin manufacturer. But given the competition in this product category, cost was an issue.
Burridge’s design offers a convenience that may help patients in an emergency. It is portable, protective, and easy to use with a single hand. But he is running into many of the same roadblocks you encounter, namely child resistance and cost. He is working to find a solution, and so should you. Many of you have already, given the ongoing work to make blisters child resistant, senior friendly, and cost-effective. Read our feature on page 40 to learn the latest.