Every year, parents struggle to make sure they’re giving the right amount of medicine to their kids. Even minor mismeasurements of medicines like Tylenol and Ibuprofen can lead to potential overdose in small children. A young father is leading a group of fellow scientists in developing a solution to this hazard: a dispenser that automatically measures and dispenses the exact amount of medication the child needs.
Through extensive product testing, developer Dr. Praveen Meka and his team came up with RightDose, an electronic dispenser that automatically measures the volume of liquid medications. The device is child-proof, has a cap and measuring cup, and the electronic model has a blinking LED light that serves as a dose reminder. So far the product has gone through seven different prototypes, each allowing the team to assess important features and gather feedback from users.
Dr. Praveen Meka discovered the need for a precise medication dispenser when his year-old son began experiencing ear infections. Meka had to alternate between giving him Tylenol and Ibuprofen as treatment. “With Tylenol, you can give a dose of 2.75 ml. With Ibuprofen, you can give 1.875 ml every 6 hours. It’s not 1.5. It’s not a whole number, There’s a lot of confusion,” said Meka.
“Although these drugs sound benign, over time they can have serious effects like liver failure. Too much Ibuprofen can affect the kidneys. It leads to a lot of parent anxiety.” Meka hopes that automatic dispensers will replace measuring cups within the next decade, which will dramatically improve the safety of taking such medications for patients.
Last year the National Capital Poison Center reported that there were 666 reports of poison exposure per 100,000 people, and nearly half of those incidents involved unintentional exposure of poisonous substances to children under six years old. Analgesics were the third leading cause.
Incorrect dosing is a global problem. Currently the team is exploring production options in China, and they also hope to gain insight into how the technology can be adopted into Chinese and Indian markets.
“Even in the United States, one in three people are health illiterate, and that number is much greater on a global level,” said Shriya Srinivasan, a developer at RightDose, and an MIT-Harvard PhD candidate in biomedical engineering. Through the dual MIT-Harvard biomedical program, Srinivasan and classmate Khalil Ramadi, healthcare entrepreneur at RightDose, are privy to the clinical and engineering perspectives on healthcare solutions. “It bridges the gap between the biomedical engineering world and the clinical world. A lot of solutions come from both sides talking together,” said Srinivasan. By observing the issues that doctors face, they are able to pinpoint what technological developments most effectively respond to issues facing doctors and patients.
The next step for RightDose is to connect with drug companies and pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, to assess who its best partners will be. RightDose offers these companies a solution to one of the most dangerous risks its customers face, child accidental overdose.
The RightDose dispenser is the product of a team with a variety of backgrounds coming together to tackle the issue. The team also brings together electrical engineer Eben Nkwate, as well as designer and experienced mechanical engineer Nithin Kanthareddy. By drawing on their knowledge and experience in business, medicine, and engineering, the team has come up with a solution to one of the most widespread and dangerous issues facing children around the world: getting the dosing right.
Bryce Fricklas is a journalist from Boulder, Colorado. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal (2013 – 2015) and Guinea (2016), where he focused on community health. His interests include culture, music, nature conservancy, and public health. He is an MA candidate in international relations and international communication at Boston University.
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