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ATLANTA — In a summit full of addiction experts, each looking for the next big solution to curb opioid abuse, everything from treatment policies to the containers holding prescription pills are being considered.

Owners of several drug supply companies say prescription vials holding drugs have done little to slow the nation’s epidemic. With seven out of 10 people who abuse prescription opioids getting drugs from a friend or family member’s medicine cabinet, some medical entrepreneurs are pushing security measures from locks to iPhone alerts as a way to deter drug abuse.

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  • The opioid addict cares little about dose timing. In Dopeville the directions to take one pill every two hours are reinterpreted as take two pills every one hour. The best product is the Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) vial caps, which are marketed by Westrock. The vial cap contains a mini computer chip, and the data from the chip can be downloaded to a PC running the correct software. The narcotic user in treatment suspected of abuse can be instructed to bring the vial and cap to the clinic at prescribed intervals and the data dump will quickly show the doctor when the bottles were opened. The drawback is that no device can ever detect that the pill was ACTUALLY TAKEN when the vial was opened. Thus the addict can do a series of fake openings at the prescribed intervals, not actually take the pill and save them for a big weekend high with his friends, and probably sell the pills he doesn’t need to get wasted. At the end of the month the dutiful patient returns the empty vial with a perfectly synchronized series of openings and closings, and there is not way the doctor can tell. Even a urine drug screen won’t pick up heavy use, since those are qualitative, not quantitative tests.

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