Do you use a pill box? 💊

Hi CHOICE community,

We’ll be looking at pill boxes (also known as pill organisers). :pill:The ones which store your medications in separate compartments. I’m interested to know if you use one, and what you like/don’t like about yours? For example it may be difficult to open, or the compartments may not be big enough for your needs.
Did you buy the first one you saw or did you do some research?
What elements of the pill box would you like to see tested (ease of opening, ease of reading days of week/time of day).
We aren’t looking at “high tech” automatic dispensers at this stage.

Thanks,
Kim

EDIT: Here’s our review and buying guide for pill boxes:

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I have been using the pill organisers for years. I have been using the ones with 14 slots; seven days AM & PM. I only pack tablets for the morning, so I have 14 days worth of medication per organiser.


I prepack one month’s worth (actually 28 days) at a time. I take fewer and consistent medication at night, so I don’t bother prepacking those.

The two lid sections are removable, so it can be washed after it’s empty. Unfortunately, the plastic is flimsy at times and the hinges, where the lid folds for the day, can break. Also, I have had the plastic snap along the spine, between two of the days.

The security of closure varies when you buy them. Some close securely, some will pop open without being touched. I always have a rubber band on each side running length-wise, just to be sure then tablets don’t fall out when I tip the dispenser to take out some pills. That is the other problem, frequently the lids either side of the one you are opening also come open, so when you tip the dispenser three lots come out.

I have tried many different styles before settling on this model. Not so much now, but in the past, I need the larger volume for each slot, and I had to pack the meds in carefully, as the medication just fitted into one of those slots if stacked just right.

If you look around, they can be quite cheap, so if it breaks, it gets consigned to storage. Eventually I can put another one together from the saved bits.

The quality of the printing varies, and sometimes the labelling comes off. Not a problem for me, but it could be for many.

Suggested testing criteria:

  • Do the individual flaps open cleanly or do they open their neighbours?
  • Can they be taken apart for cleaning (liquid tablets/caps can leak)?
  • Does a spillage in one compartment stay confined to that compartment?
  • Do the hinges wear or break after long term use?
  • Are the closures still secure after long term use?
  • Can you tip the organiser on its head without spilling the contents?
  • Can the organiser be dropped without it spilling contents?
  • How easy is each tab to open (think about old hands)?
  • How easy is it to take out one compartment’s contents?
  • Are they transparent enough to see the contents (eg is it empty or not)?
  • Does the printing remain legible after extensive handling and washing?
  • is it lockable (eg for elderly/dementia patient carer can open)
  • Are they repairable?
  • Are they recyclable?
  • Are they value for money (most are cheap plastic)?
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I have been using this (pictured) version for several years: I only need to take my three medications, and two supplements, daily.

I have found it very useful, and robust: easy to grab & go if away from home for a short time - the other advantage is reminding me which day of the week it is…!

  • Each lid presses open, with a fingertip, cleanly, and closes securely

  • I have washed the entire container successfully.

  • Closures work well (had x1 hinge break after dropping the case onto a tiled floor - unable to repair satisfactorily); case replaced in May 2022

  • I have no problems opening the day’s lid with a single press: the pills tip easily into my hand, without opening the other compartments.

  • Printing unchanged (after several years of use of the first one I bought); the coloured lids are no hindrance to visibility - they are, IMO, cheerful colours!

  • Not lockable. Value for money - IMO, good. The latest one purchased was $14, with ‘free’ postage (I assume it was factored in to the price) via Ebay.

  • Recycling icon shown on the case - as a triangle with (5 pp) inside.

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You might need to consider including pill cutters in the same review. I’ve one medication that requires a half or quarter dose daily.

I’ve found the pill cutter recommended by the local pharmacy staff is more a pill crusher. I get a cleaner split along the tablet centre line by hand. It needs some finesse, fine handling and strong nails to be effective. Similar to cutting ceramic tiles in principle.

I’d test any pill cutter based on effectiveness on,

  • small and large tablets
  • amount of wasted crumble
  • consistency of equal amounts in each half
  • ease of use for fat or arthritic hands
  • repeatability and durability

Note there may be alternative solutions.

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I am thinking of a really small angle grinder.

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I have one thats similar to @meltam as pictured above, except mine is green and yellow. I used it only for a short time, I decided it was just too fiddly to bother with. When I can’t manage anymore, I’ll get pharmacy issued Webster Packs. What I do, currently, is have one card of each medication standing on its side, in a smallish plastic tray. As I pop each one (or two in some cases) out, i move the card of meds to the back of the tray. If its the last on the card, I put a new card in the tray in its place. It works to keep me on the straight and narrow. The main problem is if I forget (short term memory is beginning to fail) then no amount of boxes or trays will help me to remember, so I need pill alarms. So I am also contemplating a box with an alarm which will release the right meds at the right time. (this is called prepping for dementia!) The pharmacy would be responsible for filling it weekly or fortnightly.

On the matter of cutters… I need one, one of my meds does not come scored so although doc says I can wean off at half doses, I actually can’t. But then, the dosage becomes an issue because with whole tabs you don’t really know what you’re getting when you cut them yourself.

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Thanks everyone, these are all great thoughts and ideas. The review was prompted by a member who sent theirs in, indicating that a pair of pliers was required with the pill box, or perhaps some building weights!
We may need to reserve pill cutters for another time; but I did consider it. The one I bought for my mum has lasted for about 15 years and still cuts well but it was purchased when I used to live in the UK.

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I don’t use a pill box. I get a roll of tablets from the Chemist that has all my pills for the month in the roll, each pill is described and the date and time is set out on each packet. Each packet is separated by perforation from the others, meaning I can take a packet or multiple packets with me (depending on length of time away from home) to use when needed.

They do have a dispenser box that holds up to 2 weeks of a roll if I wish to use it but my monthly roll is quite large and even my fortnight’s worth won’t fit so it is just kept as a roll for me without boxing it up. The roll costs about the same as one pensioner (concession) prescription per week (about $7) to have them made up but we negotiated a deal with our Chemist for a monthly cost of $7. We have taken the rolls overseas as the contents are clearly identified to match the Doctors accompanying letter.

Another one is Webster packs, I prefer my rolls.

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Yes. Mine is a seven sided polygon. I used to have a rectangular one but the lids hinges eventually failed. The polygon shape is compact and fits easily in a sponge bag. It could be improved with clearer lettering on the lids and if the compartments were about 10% larger.

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I use one similar to @meltam as well, though mine is blue and clear. It works well. I use the AM ones only. My only issue is that the text on the lids is rubbing off, but I’ve had the pill box for a long time, so that’s normal wear and tear I suppose.

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I am using a similar style the differences are;
Each segment (consisting of am and pm) can be levered upwards to separate apart - very handy for w/e away no need to take the whole container.
The colours are clear lid for pm and blu lid for am pills are visible.
I have been using or about 4 months and the labelling is starting to wear.
The lids click shut and can be hard to open without a bit of finger force.
If dropped or tipped the closures are strong enough to not open.

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I have two. One has 7 compartments a bit bigger than 40x30x20mm, the other a bit smaller. I use the bigger one daily, it is at least 7 years old, closes and opens with light pressure, stays closed under normal use but can open if dropped. The tab to open the lids protrude a few mm so easy to lift with finger pressure. The letters are rubbed off one end, but since the only day one has to think is the first day this is not a serious issue. It does not have the days in braille, the other one does. If we go away for more than a few days I will fill the other one and both go away with us. I had thought the lids on the second one were too easy to pop open at inopportune moments so it always had an elastic band. However, a few months ago I decided to look closely as to why the catches were so loose. Turns out I hadn’t closed them properly. Closing required a forceful two handed pinch then the lid closes with a resounding ‘snap’. It doesn’t require as much effort to open again if the catch is operated correctly. But operating the catch is fiddly as it is quite small. The lids will not open otherwise even if dropped. I would not recommend the second one.

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For some of the responses above, are people able to include photos? A picture is worth a thousand words. :wink:

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Longevity of the print is something we might look at, if people are interested. While they are quite cheap and can be easily replaced, we do want to look at durability from a sustainability perspective.

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I have toyed with the idea but don’t use one regularly. The key limitation in durability seems to me to be the construction of the hinges on the lids. Most are a cheaply made flap of plastic that bends back and forth. This is not going to last very long compared to a properly made hinge that has moving parts - the knuckle and the pin.

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I also use two 7-day ones. They are relatively cheap ones from a chemist.

I confirm much of what has been said above. The writing on both has had to be redone (by me) as it rubbed off within a few months. I re-marked them with white-out fluid. The hinges have lasted, surprisingly, and so have the latches but I never feel that I can trust them completely. I take an afternoon dose, so I have to carry one of my packs around with me at all times, but I have to ensure that the pack is horizontal in my bag with the “back” downwards to stop the latches opening.

As I also add some vitamins to daily doses (on medical advice) I find these pills are very large compared to the prescribed medication, and often have difficulty with the capacity of the pill box.

One thing I would like is a spare compartment, where I can store an emergency dose.

I give another vote to testing pill cutters. I find this process quite hit-and-miss and time-consuming with unreliable results.

I do like the look of the coloured one pictured above. I might upgrade.

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I use the cheap discount shop ones (pictured). The top one I use daily for my cat as she has cancer. It holds the 3 tablets and 2 finger cots which are needed as 1 tablet is cytotoxic. It’s also kept in the fridge. I’ve had it about 4 years and apart from the days rubbing off it’s been fine. Hinges and lid lock work well.

The second one is for me for 2 tablets a day. That’s about 3 years old and works well although when I first got it the lid kept flipping up but over time it’s worn in and now works fine.

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I use one identical to this and have used similar in the past. My scripts these days mostly are in a webster pack for which I use a pill bob to remove from compartments. I use the organiser for my supplements recommended by various specialists. The pill splitter used for my script medications previously become too much when tablets turned to powder when I tried to cut them so had to leave them to pharmacist to do.

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Must be big pills to use a small angle grinder

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