From a hole-puncher for blister packs to the crusher for hard-to-swallow tablets: The clever gadgets that take the pain out of popping your pills!
- Daily medications are an unrelenting reality for millions of people across the UK
- This can be even more difficult to manage with products that aren’t user-friendly
- Thankfully, a brand new range of practical gadgets are now on the market to help
One in five patients finds it difficult to swallow their pills.
For others — such as people with sore or swollen hands caused by arthritis — even getting pills out of blister packs can be tricky.
Luckily, there are a host of products designed to make it easier to take our medicines.
Here, Sandra Gidley, a pharmacist from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, assesses a selection. We then rated them.
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BEAKER TO HELP TABLETS GO DOWN
Hard to swallow? This plastic beaker is similar to a child’s sippy cup and could help patients
Pilgo pill swallowing cup, £12.95, dosego.co.uk
This plastic beaker is similar to a child’s sippy cup. You fill it with water and fix the lid on; then you place the pills inside the spout where they sit on a mesh.
The manufacturer claims the spout is positioned in such a way that when it is tilted into the mouth, it creates a ‘natural drinking position’, improving the chances of water carrying the pill smoothly down.
EXPERT VERDICT: For people who struggle to put tablets in their mouth and swallow them, it might be worth a try as it does help flush the tablet down the throat. It works similarly to placing the pill on your tongue before taking a drink, which is cheaper, but I can see the appeal.
GRIPPER TO OPEN PILL BOTTLES
Handy: This device slips over the top of most lids and has a ribbed lining to make it grip
Pill bottle opener, £5.99, ability superstore.com
Opening screw-top lids on pill containers can be tricky for those with joint problems or a weak grip, and child-proof tops can make it even worse. This rubbery device slips over the top of most lids and has a ribbed lining to make it grip.
EXPERT VERDICT: This may help, but I am not sure how ‘universal’ it is; it may not fit all pill bottles. Also, most tablets do not come in bottles these days but in blister packs.
NO-MESS EYE DROP DISPENSER
Take a closer look: This gadget is a large tube that sits over the eye and contains the drops
Opticare eye drop dispenser, £14.69, amazon.co.uk
Self-administering eye drops is not easy at the best of times, while arthritis patients can also struggle to squeeze drops out of a small bottle.
This gadget is a large tube that sits over the eye. It opens up at the side so you can clip the bottle containing the drops inside.
You hold the tube over your eye and the drops can be released by gently squeezing the sides of the device — one squeeze releases one drop.
It has a large surface area to grip, making it easy to use, and accurately targets the eye.
EXPERT VERDICT: Worth a try for anyone who struggles to get drops into the eye, rather than all over their face — a common problem. The device cups the eye, so no more waving a bottle around trying to get it in the right position.
PILL CRUSHER FOR EASY SWALLOWING
This device is the size of an egg cup and comes in two parts, screwed into each other
Sabi pill crusher and pill box, £4.99, springchicken.co.uk
This device is about the size of an egg cup and comes in two parts, screwed into each other. The top section has a little compartment to store pills.
To crush them, you unscrew the top part, pop the pill into the bottom compartment and screw the top back on. It then crushes the pill into a powder, which you then pour into a glass of water, for example.
EXPERT VERDICT: This may work. But if you find it difficult to swallow tablets and want to crush them, ask your pharmacist first if the medicine is available in a liquid form. If not, you must check if your tablet can be crushed without risks, as many prescription medicines shouldn’t be crushed.
This is because they have special coatings to prevent the active ingredients from being released in the stomach, where they can cause damage and where acid can degrade the medicine, stopping it working properly.
Examples include naproxen, an anti-inflammatory for osteoarthritis and cramp; or sulfasalazine, to treat the bowel disease Crohn’s, and rheumatoid arthritis.
PILL BOX REMINDS YOU TO TAKE MEDICINES
Alarm call: This pocket-sized box is designed to alert patients by vibrating at preset times
Vibration 5 alarm pill box, £11.94, completecareshop.co.uk
This pocket-sized box is designed to alert patients to take their pills by gently vibrating at preset times.
Each one has five compartments for storing tablets and a different alarm can be set for each. It’s targeted at those with hearing difficulties.
EXPERT VERDICT: Some pills are meant to be taken at a specified time or at regular intervals. If this doesn’t happen, they aren’t as effective as they could be.
For example, statins should be taken before bed since production of ‘bad’ cholesterol peaks during the night. So, in this case, the pill box can be set to vibrate at the same time every night. You could just use a vibrating alarm on your mobile phone, but some people may prefer a separate gadget.
The added bonus is that it stores the tablets, too, which may be useful, but it does rely on you remembering to fill the compartments and set the reminders every day — which may put off some people.
MEDICINE SPOON THAT DOESN’T SPILL
Worth it? Most liquid medicines for children come with a syringe which, in many ways, is better than this spoon
Spilly spoon, £4.49, spillyspoon.com
This is a caterpillar-shaped plastic tube with a spoon on one end where you pour in the liquid.
The tube, which has little stands on the bottom, can be laid flat on a surface so you can fill it easily without spilling. It can hold up to 10ml (roughly two teaspoons).
EXPERT VERDICT: Most liquid medicines for children come with a syringe which, in many ways, is better than this spoon as it is less likely to cause spillages, and you can more accurately measure the dose (plus, they’re free).
But some children don’t like syringes, so for them, this might be useful.
HOLE-PUNCHER TO OPEN BLISTER PACKS
Betterware pill popper, £6.99, amazon.co.uk
Most tablets come in blister packs as they are cheaper to manufacture than bottles and it’s easier for patients to monitor how many they are taking. But some can find opening blister packs difficult.
This is quite a useful idea, especially for people whose hands are affected by arthritis
This hand-held plastic gadget is placed over the tablet to be released. Working in a similar way to a hole-puncher, it has a ‘lever’ which pushes the tablet, forcing it through the foil. The pill is collected in the handle and the patient can slide it out.
EXPERT VERDICT: This is quite a useful idea, especially for people whose hands are affected by arthritis.
The problem is tablets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are only a couple of millimetres in diameter, others can be a centimetre or more, so this one-size-fits-all device might not actually work for all tablets.
It also shouldn’t be used with capsules as they contain powder and are easily split if manhandled.
PILL-CUTTER MAKES TABLETS SMALLER
Easy to use: Pill-cutters like this chop tablets in half and are useful when doctors prescribe half the standard pill dose
Safe + sound pill cutter and crusher, £3.79, Boots and amazon.co.uk
Pill-cutters like this chop tablets in half and are useful when doctors prescribe half the standard pill dose. A pill is simply placed inside the device between two guides, and the lid (which has a blade in the middle) is closed to cut it in half.
EXPERT VERDICT: Many pharmacists use similar devices for making up trays of medicines for patients who are on lots of tablets. They are easy for the patient to use, too, and are safer than a kitchen knife.
But a lot depends on the size and shape of the pills; flat, circular ones which are already scored down the middle are the easiest to cut. You should never cut a pill before you have checked with your doctor or pharmacist.
THE AUTOMATIC AND ALARMED PILL DISPENSER
The battery-powered device can be pre-loaded with up to 28 pills by a nurse or carer
Pivotell advance automatic pill dispenser, £114, completecareshop.co.uk
Designed for those taking several pills a day but who may have memory problems. The battery-powered device can be pre-loaded with up to 28 pills by a nurse or carer, and programmed to release each one at a set time.
The device sounds an alarm when it’s time to take a pill and switches off once it has been removed.
EXPERT VERDICT: Useful for those with dementia. It could stop them from overdosing when they forget if they have taken their medicines because it will deny them access to the pills until the next time they’re due to take one.
Unlike other alarmed pill boxes, this cannot be tampered with or opened in between the set times, reducing the risk of overdose.
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