A Carle Illinois College of Medicine Health Make-a-Thon winner is closer to helping prevent opioid addiction with a unique pill bottle cap designed to monitor potential misuse of the medication.

Ariana Alam Mizan was a 16-year-old University Lab High School student when she entered and won the September 2020 Health Make-a-Thon. Her award-winning pill bottle cap design is now taking shape in the Health Maker Lab at Carle Illinois. She has two working prototypes for the device, an app in the planning stages, and a goal to create a start-up business.

Ariana Alam Mizan with her PillSafe Cap prototype
Ariana Alam Mizan with her PillSafe Cap prototype

Mizan’s PillSafe Smart Cap attaches to the top of a standard prescription medication bottle and uses a light sensor to monitor when pills are removed. The cap wirelessly records the time and amount each time medication is taken, relays the data to a smart device, and reports the information to the prescriber through an app.

PillSafe is designed to help prevent opioid addiction by alerting providers to potential medication misuse, either by the patient or by someone else in the patient’s household. “Before, providers never knew what happened to medication once it left the pharmacy,” Mizan said. “PillSafe is not supposed to be a Big Brother device that tells the patient what to do. This opens a conversation and makes the patient-provider relationship more transparent.”

After spending a year in developing the smart cap prototype, Mizan sees the potential for broader application, to help detect and address obstacles that many patients face with taking their medications as prescribed. “This could be helpful for people with special needs,” she said. “It could be used with elderly patients who have a hard time remembering to take their medication (with reminding features).”

Mizan received $10,000 in ‘maker lab’ support and resources through Carle Illinois’ Health Maker Lab. She expects to spend the next year and the balance of her in-kind support on assembling an engineering team and developing a smart device app for record-keeping and reporting. “Once I develop an app that works and a prototype beyond the alpha/beta stage, I think it would be time to start seriously thinking about a team that could help me register this as a start-up, and actually creating a business out of this,” said Mizan.

Final Cabinet design prototype for PillSafe
Final Cabinet design prototype for PillSafe

A second prototype of Mizan’s invention was designed by students in Bioengineering Professor Holly Golecki’s senior design class at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Their cabinet design is meant to hold multiple pill bottles and uses a weight sensor to monitor usage of several medications simultaneously.

The annual Health Make-a-Thon at Carle Illinois awards 10 winning teams with $10,000 in design and development support for innovations to advance human health or health care.