WASHINGTON - The Consumer Product Safety Commission on June 15 set new performance standards for child-resistant caps on nonprescription drug bottles. CPSC called for caps that take more brainpower to open, but less muscle, to make them easier to use for older people. But the commission backpedaled from tougher-to-meet standards that it had proposed in January.
The change involves the average age of panel members who test the plastic closures. In January, CPSC had approved rules that provided for test panel members in the 75-year-old range. But opposition from an industry coalition prompted the commission to call for an additional comment period.
Under the new rules, 90 percent of older adults aged 50 to 70-with a median age of 60-must be able to open the package in a five-minute test, then again in one minute, said CPSC spokesman KenGiles. For the past 25 years, the ages of panelists chosen to test child-resistant packaging has been between 18 and 45.
Clas Nilstoft, president of injection molder Sunbeam Plastics Inc. in Evansville, Ind., welcomed the CPSC decision.
``We embraced announcement of the rulemaking change in 1983; we adapted to meet the change. We have produced unique closure systems, which can comply already to the new regulation,'' Nilstoft said.
Sunbeam claims 30 percent of the child-resistant closures market.
New closure designs now on the market have passed both the old and the just-announced standards.
``It will appeal more to people's cognitive skills, rather than their physical strength,'' Giles said, adding that it will ``make package openings more adult-friendly in addition to being child-resistant.''
``We have set a performance standard, not a design standard. We do not set design standards. Industry can use any design as it sees fit, after it passes the senior adult panel test,'' Giles said.
In January, CPSC voted for, but never published, requirements that package opening test panels be composed of older citizens, making it ``unfairly weighted to the 71- to 75-year-old group,'' said Sally Pfund, a Washington-based lawyer who represents the coalition that formed to lobby against the rules.
Giles said a half dozen groups, including the Non-Prescription Drug Association, requested reopening the comment period after CPSC had approved the new 75-year-old testing groups.
``The commission stepped in and reopened the comment period. Then it held a public hearing and considered the questions regarding the age range of testers,'' among other questions, Giles said.
Pfund said the coalition supports the current compromise. Sunbeam Plastics is not a member of the coalition, Pfund said.
Jack Rosette, a closures consultant in Fort Mill, S.C., said the new cap standards are intended to get senior citizens to recap medicines to keep them out of the way of children.
``Now, it will encourage senior adults to recap the packages to a degree that children won't be able to reopen them.
``Everybody has kids in their house, at sometime or another. Older folks frustrated with drug package closures in the past have left the caps off,'' Rosette said, noting the new standards will help reverse that practice by older adults.
``Changes have been in the works for 10 years now and everyone will have to meet the standard. Mechanical changes will vary from closure to closure and bottle to bottle,'' Rosette said, but basically, ``that which is easiest for small hands to hold is the package that should have the most secure closure.''