Health Team

NC company invents device to reduce prescription mix-ups

Posted January 7, 2011 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2011 7:21 p.m. EST

— Approximately 7,000 people lose their lives annually due to prescription errors in the U.S. A Triangle company has invented a device that makes sure the drug in the bottle matches the label.

There are more than 3,000 different types of prescription drugs in any given pharmacy, and most of them have generic versions that even look different.

“Either they're a different shape or a different color,” said Pharmacist Mike James, who said he shoulders a lot of responsibility making sure he doesn't put too much trust in what's on a bottle's label.

“There's lots of ways you check prescriptions – by visual aid, by color – all those type things, but all that still leaves open the human process of error,” he said.

James uses PASS Rx, a device invented and marketed by Centice in Morrisville.

“So with our device, you can save about 77 percent of the errors, or reduce about 77 percent of the errors,” said Centice President and CEO Scott Albert.

Albert says the laser device is at the heart of the unit. The pharmacist scans the label's bar code and then places the bottle in the scanner chamber. It not only takes a picture of the pills inside, but chemically verifies them. If the wrong pills are inside, the verification fails.

“We think this piece of equipment is probably a revolutionary piece of equipment,” James said.

A newer device, PINPOINT Rx, doesn't require a bottle or label, just an unknown pill. The answer comes within 5 to 10 seconds, “which is very helpful if someone comes into the E.R. (and medical staff members) don't know what the medication is, and you can just have the machine tell you,” Albert said.

It takes most of the guessing and potentially fatal human errors out of the equation. Both types of drug scanners are relatively new. The PASS Rx prescription scanner is only in about 15 pharmacies in the country.