I'm 61. My blood pressure was high but is now controlled by two tablets I take every day. I was blessed to be born into a family with propensity toward high cholesterol, so I take two caplets for that every morning. I am hypothyroid, which is controlled by a little bitty tablet that I will have to take every morning for the rest of my life. So, what's that five tablets so far? Oh yeah, as men get older the tendency is to have lower than normal levels of Vitamin D, so I take an over the counter supplement. And just to be on the safe side (my doctor tells me) I take a baby aspirin every morning to thin my blood and lessen the likelihood of a heart attack.. .. so, that's seven things I take every morning, and they all come in a plastic bottle. I go through roughly 80 bottles a year and had been saving them for some reason, perhaps thinking that I would come across some clever use for them. But finally, having a box full of them, I decided to throw them in the "recycle bin".
I had lunch with my buddy Johann yesterday; he's my pharmacist and I see him every other week or so when I pick up my prescriptions. I asked Johann how many prescription bottles, of various sizes, he went through a month. He had never really considered it before and it took a few minutes of pondering; his estimate came out to a remarkable number ... 4,100 bottles per month. 49,200 prescription bottles per year.
The Rite-Aid pharmacy that Johann manages is only one of 52 local pharmacies within a fifteen mile radius. Do the math, if these other pharmacies have similar usage numbers that is 2,558,400 bottles per years. San Luis Obispo county is a rural area with a population of 270,000. That's roughly 9.5 bottles per year for everyone in the county. A little overly simplified math reveals 300,000,000 (US population) x 9.5 bottles per person, per year = 2,850,000,000 little brown plastic prescription bottles... just in the US.
There must be a better way to dispense drugs. They can not, by law, be dispensed in used containers (say you wanted to have your prescriptions refilled into the bottles you had) because they are not sterile, they must be "child proof", and of course they must have a label on them. Sizes vary dependent upon the size of the medication.
So there's your challenge. Design a new pharmaceutical dispensing system.