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Pharmacy Startup PillPack Could Change The Way America Takes Its Medicine

Via Forbes : A tiny New Hampshire startup is revolutionizing the way millions of patients take their daily medicines–and threatening the business model of titans like CVS and Walgreens in the process.

Allen Pittinger-Dunham, 51, has been taking HIV medicines since 2003. A few years in, his viral counts started to creep up, and his doctor put him on a much more complicated regimen that required him to take ten pills a day. Cathy Benedetti, a 38-year-old nurse, faces a similar problem with her elderly parents, who live 1,000 miles away from her. Each of them takes at least 16 prescription drugs every day. “They were so overwhelmed,” says Benedetti. “They had literally a box of bottles, and they said every night, ‘I don’t want to deal with pillboxes.’”

The problem of medication overload is a big one. Some 32 million Americans–10% of the population–are on at least five different prescription drugs. A 2005 study found that half of all Americans on medications don’t take them properly, adding $100 billion a year to U.S. health care costs.

Pittinger-Dunham and Benedetti have settled on the same solution to the problem: a small startup pharmacy based in Manchester, N.H. called PillPack. The company sends them their prescription drugs by mail order (nothing new there), but instead of sending all the Lipitor in one bottle and the Viread in another, pills are sorted together into clear plastic wrappers printed with the date and time at which they should be taken. No more wondering if you remembered to take your Diovan or counting how many Lasixes are left in the bottle. The service–including shipping–costs customers about the same as picking up the prescription at the local pharmacy.

“It takes all the worries that I may have away,” says Pittinger-Dunham. Benedetti says: “It’s peace of mind for everyone involved.”

The idea of prepackaging pills by dosage–organizing them before they even reach the patient–isn’t new. In 2006 researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. found that by putting pills in blister packs, they upped the proportion of people who took their medicine from 61% to 97%. What is new is turning that idea into a business with the potential to rival CVS or Walgreens.

Pills are sorted into envelopes with the day and time each batch should be taken.
Pills are sorted into envelopes with the day and time each batch should be taken.

A tiny New Hampshire startup is revolutionizing the way millions of patients take their daily medicines–and threatening the business model of titans like CVS and Walgreens in the process.

Allen Pittinger-Dunham, 51, has been taking HIV medicines since 2003. A few years in, his viral counts started to creep up, and his doctor put him on a much more complicated regimen that required him to take ten pills a day. Cathy Benedetti, a 38-year-old nurse, faces a similar problem with her elderly parents, who live 1,000 miles away from her. Each of them takes at least 16 prescription drugs every day. “They were so overwhelmed,” says Benedetti. “They had literally a box of bottles, and they said every night, ‘I don’t want to deal with pillboxes.’”

The problem of medication overload is a big one. Some 32 million Americans–10% of the population–are on at least five different prescription drugs. A 2005 study found that half of all Americans on medications don’t take them properly, adding $100 billion a year to U.S. health care costs.

Pittinger-Dunham and Benedetti have settled on the same solution to the problem: a small startup pharmacy based in Manchester, N.H. called PillPack. The company sends them their prescription drugs by mail order (nothing new there), but instead of sending all the Lipitor in one bottle and the Viread in another, pills are sorted together into clear plastic wrappers printed with the date and time at which they should be taken. No more wondering if you remembered to take your Diovan or counting how many Lasixes are left in the bottle. The service–including shipping–costs customers about the same as picking up the prescription at the local pharmacy.

“It takes all the worries that I may have away,” says Pittinger-Dunham. Benedetti says: “It’s peace of mind for everyone involved.”

The idea of prepackaging pills by dosage–organizing them before they even reach the patient–isn’t new. In 2006 researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. found that by putting pills in blister packs, they upped the proportion of people who took their medicine from 61% to 97%. What is new is turning that idea into a business with the potential to rival CVS or Walgreens.

A tiny New Hampshire startup is revolutionizing the way millions of patients take their daily medicines–and threatening the business model of titans like CVS and Walgreens in the process.

Allen Pittinger-Dunham, 51, has been taking HIV medicines since 2003. A few years in, his viral counts started to creep up, and his doctor put him on a much more complicated regimen that required him to take ten pills a day. Cathy Benedetti, a 38-year-old nurse, faces a similar problem with her elderly parents, who live 1,000 miles away from her. Each of them takes at least 16 prescription drugs every day. “They were so overwhelmed,” says Benedetti. “They had literally a box of bottles, and they said every night, ‘I don’t want to deal with pillboxes.’”

The problem of medication overload is a big one. Some 32 million Americans–10% of the population–are on at least five different prescription drugs. A 2005 study found that half of all Americans on medications don’t take them properly, adding $100 billion a year to U.S. health care costs.

Pittinger-Dunham and Benedetti have settled on the same solution to the problem: a small startup pharmacy based in Manchester, N.H. called PillPack. The company sends them their prescription drugs by mail order (nothing new there), but instead of sending all the Lipitor in one bottle and the Viread in another, pills are sorted together into clear plastic wrappers printed with the date and time at which they should be taken. No more wondering if you remembered to take your Diovan or counting how many Lasixes are left in the bottle. The service–including shipping–costs customers about the same as picking up the prescription at the local pharmacy.

“It takes all the worries that I may have away,” says Pittinger-Dunham. Benedetti says: “It’s peace of mind for everyone involved.”

The idea of prepackaging pills by dosage–organizing them before they even reach the patient–isn’t new. In 2006 researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. found that by putting pills in blister packs, they upped the proportion of people who took their medicine from 61% to 97%. What is new is turning that idea into a business with the potential to rival CVS or Walgreens.

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