Pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur John Dobbins is marketing a plastic device that orally gives prescription directions for blind or visually impaired people.
A doctor or pharmacist records prescription information directly into the Talking Rx and a user presses a button to retrieve the message, as needed. The device is reusable for new prescriptions.
``Patients need products to identify medications and get directions,'' said Dobbins, president of Millennium Compliance Corp. of Southington, Conn.
Dobbins founded the self-funded business with an opthamologist, a biotech engineer and an electrical engineer. He said he was motivated by a Spanish-speaking senior citizen who was unable to understand written medication instructions. He invented a prototype in 1996, obtained a patent and, after consumer testing, revamped the product.
J&L Plastic Molding LLC of Wallingford, Conn., molded an initial order in a single-cavity mold on a 40-ton press. The design required particular rib placement to accommodate electronic components.
``The tool was not overly tricky, but we didn't want to cut steel until all [elements were] in place,'' said Marty Kellaher, J&L manager of sales and marketing.
Plastic parts, mostly ABS, include the base, an ultrasonically welded retaining ring, an inner core and a stylus. Nitrile elastomer is used for an O-ring. The core protects the battery, semiconductor chip, recessed microphone and speaker.
The device fits on the bottom of certain sizes of polypropylene pharmaceutical vials made by Kerr Group Inc. in Jackson, Tenn.; Owens-Illinois Inc.'s prescription products division in Berlin, Ohio; Tri State Distribution Inc. in Sparta, Tenn.; and Prepakit Inc. in London, Ontario.
An earlier design positioned the Talking Rx over an existing closure, but made the vial too top-heavy.
Rick Buckley, owner of Total Packaging Inc. in Unionville, Conn., developed the packaging and arranged for assembly and fulfillment services through CW Resources Inc.'s production division in New Britain, Conn. As many as five assemblers make the units, said Alix Capsalors, vice president at CW, a nonprofit vocational rehabilitator.
Charlie Collins, owner of specialty retailer Vision Dynamics LLC of Cheshire, Conn., placed information about Talking Rx's availability in mail-order catalogs ``MaxiAids'' and ``Independent Living Aids.''
``We have seen a lot of smiling faces of people who come in and press a simple button,'' Collins said. ``People with low vision and blindness cannot read labels of prescription bottles.''
The nonprofit Canadian National Institute for the Blind began selling the device in January, said purchaser Joyce Kwan. ``We will test the market in our top-selling store [in Toronto] and get feedback from clients.''
Talking Rx became available in April 2001 and, since September, has carried a suggested retail price of $24.95. Third-party insurers do not cover the device now.
``We are working on obtaining coverage for the blind, low-vision, dyslexic and illiterate,'' Dobbins said.