FIELD OF THE INVENTION
A flat pack provides a reusable pill case having provisions for retention and security of individual medication pills while also providing easy accessibility to the pills.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Medication in the form of pills, tablets and capsules, has become a traveling companion for a vast number or persons affected by ailments and diseases of all kinds and severity. The desire and need of a user to always have pills, tablets or capsules with him and available, comprising a dose or doses of medication, has created a need for a convenient and secure carrying case or packaging for the pills, tablets or capsules. The ease of portability of such a carrying case or package is of the utmost importance. Prior art pill storage and transport cases have taken on a great number of different structures and designs, the most basic being the familiar cylindrical pill bottles with locking caps in which prescription medication is typically packaged.
As the use and variety of medication have increased, cases for carrying doses of the medication with a user have evolved. One problem that has been addressed by prior art pill cases has been the transportability of the pill case. Specifically, pill cases have been designed and developed that are smaller and flatter than the common prior art cylindrical pill bottles with locking caps. In addition, the evolution of pill cases has seen a variety of novel dispensing means applied to pill cases to facilitate removal of a single pill. Examples of prior art pill cases adopting a more easily transported flat profile with a distinctive dispensing means include U.S. Pat. No. 5,974,294 to Omata et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 6,068,126 to DeJonge; and U.S. Pat. No. 4,230,237 to de Wit.
Another approach at designing a device for transporting medication has been to pre-package pills in a blister pack wherein each individual pill is contained in a separate bubble cavity such that it may be removed individually by pushing them through a back panel. Blister packaging of pills is reflected in U.S. Pat. No. 4,889,236 to Bartell et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 5,927,500 to Godfrey et al.; and U.S. Pat. No. 4,753,352 to Dauphin et al. Blister packs allow for a slim design and are easily adapted to various size pills. The '236 Patent to Bartell specifically contemplates the use of such packaging as a credit card style blister pack that may be carried in a purse or wallet. Blister packs have a number of disadvantages, however. First, the pills are pre-packaged in the blister packs, increasing the cost of the medication because the cost of the packaging is built into the cost of the medication. Second, the blister pack is not re-usable; once the pills stored in the blister pack are consumed, the empty pack is discarded and a new blister pack of pills must be purchased.
In addition, there a number of medications that are of relatively infrequent use and which require only a small or one-time dosage, but which a user desires to keep with him at all times. For such medication, a blister pack having 10 or 20 or 30 pills is a waste of money. For example, it is advisable for persons having heart conditions to carry nitroglycerin pills with them at all times. In the event of a heart attack, immediate ingestion of one or two nitroglycerin pills can be very beneficial. However, there is no purpose for a user to carry a blister pack with many nitroglycerin pills in it. The use is immediate and of a small dosage and will in all probability only be used a couple of times in a lifetime, so a blister pack having 20 nitroglycerin pills will be a waste of money and packaging.
Another important consideration in the design of a pill carrying case, particularly if the medication will be accessed during a period of physical distress, e.g. a heart attack, is the ease of accessing the pills. Blister packs are disadvantageous in this regard by requiring the pill to be pushed by a user through a back cover membrane, which may very well be an obstacle that cannot be overcome by a person suffering a heart attack.
A need is thus identified for a reusable pack for retaining and securing medication pills, the pills in the pack being easily accessible and the pack being of such design that it is easily transportable, specifically as a thin credit card sized pack that can be carried in a wallet or purse.
The high cost of some medications provides additional motivation for an improved pill case. Specifically, a user that pays a large amount for a single pill will want to ensure that the pill will be secured and protected within the pack. If pills are able to rattle around within the case or to contact other pills stored in the case, there is an increased danger that the pill will crumble or be chipped, broken or powdered, particularly if the pill exists in the case for weeks, months or even years before it is used. In addition, if the pill is not easy to remove from the case, there is an increased risk of dropping or losing the pill during extraction from the case.
One example medication that a user will want to easily and quickly access, but which may be stored for weeks or months without being used, is the sexual enhancement drug VIAGRA. Each VIAGRA pill is very expensive, so a user wants to be sure that the integrity of the pill is maintained in the case. Protection from contamination, from crumbling, powdering, chipping or breaking, are all desired functions of a case designed to carry VIAGRA. In addition, it is desirable to provide a case that is easily transportable and which permits a user discretion in the transport and use of the medication. To those ends, it is desirable to provide a pill case that holds each VIAGRA pill isolated and secure from contact with other pills and to prevent rattling within the pill case. In that way, it will be possible to protect the integrity of the VIAGRA pill even if it exists in the pill case for weeks, months or years before it is used. The desirable pill case will be sized similarly to a credit card and will have a thin profile that allows discretionary storage in a wallet or billfold, and will also incorporate an easy opening device.
For a user that transports medication in a pill case, particularly for a user and medication that will be accessed infrequently, it is desirable to know the inventory of medication in the pill case without having to open it. That is, if a user must open the pill case to check its inventory, there is an increased risk of dropping the medication or spilling the pill case's contents during the inventory check. This risk is eliminated if transparent windows are provided that allow a user to check the inventory without opening the pack. In a number of the prior art blister packs, in which pills are pre-packaged, a user can evaluate the inventory because the pills will be visible through the blister pack if they are present. However, in a reusable pill case wherein expensive medications are retained, it is desirable to provide a pod for holding each pill secure and a transparent window over each of the pill containing pods, so that a user can instantly assess the inventory of medication in the pill case without opening the pill case.
In some instances, medication comes in individually pre-packaged units, generally in perforated, separable blister packs on which a card may be torn to separate a single dose of such pre-packaged medication. Examples of such pre-packaged medication include pills such as vitamins, and cold and flu pills and a variety of other medications that come in perforated and separable blister packs.
Another specific example of an individually packaged item that a user carries with him is chewing gum containing a nicotine supplement that is utilized to allow smokers to be weaned off cigarettes. Some of the most well known manufacturers of such nicotine gum provide each chicklet of gum wrapped in an individual blister pack foil backed package. These individually wrapped medications are important relative to portable pill cases because the gum is extremely expensive and it is desirable to provide a pill case for carrying such individual chicklets to eliminate the transport of small individually packaged chicklets. A pill case accommodating such medication has the advantages of allowing a user to neatly carry multiple pre-packaged units in a credit card sized case that may be carried in a wallet or billfold rather than carrying multiple individually pre-packaged units.
Another difficulty encountered with the use of small pre-packaged doses of medications, gums, etc., in blister pack, foil backed packaging is the difficulty in opening the dosage pre-packaging in which they are wrapped. Typically the size of a dime or nickel, the individual blister pack, foil backed pre-packaging requires a user to break a seal or peel away a corner of the pre-packaging to get at the medication, gum, etc. For such small items, good finger dexterity is required to remove the pill therefrom, specifically to peel the foil backing away. This becomes even more problematic when the package contains gum and is unintentionally heated such as through body warmth transferred to the package and gum. The gum becomes sticky and gooey and difficult to remove as a result. Peeling away the foil backing becomes particularly difficult under those circumstances. There is thus identified a need for a pill case designed to carry such pre-packaged medication, gum, etc., that is advantageously designed such that the pre-packaging is punctured or perforated by the pill case upon closure. The puncturing of the pre-packaging is particularly advantageous for small items that require fingertip dexterity to open. A pill case with perforating teeth that clamp down on and puncture pre-packaging around medication, gum, etc., is advantageous because it reduces the difficulty in removing the foil backing therefrom so that the medication, gum, etc., immediately available to the user upon opening the pill case without having to further puncture or manipulate the prepackaging.
Finally, it is advantageous to provide a reusable pill case that may be used and reused to store individual doses of expensive medication having provisions to write identification information thereon indicating the owner and the medication stored therein. It thus is desirable to provide a pill case having a surface on which a user may write or print such information.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
It is an object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case that is highly portable and securely retains individual pills in fixed positions.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case of the approximate dimensions of a credit card that has a thin profile and fits within a wallet or billfold for ease of transport.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case formed from a single piece of material with provisions for retaining pills in fixed and secure positions during transport.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case having pods that are sized to fit particular pills, said pods having means for accessing an individual pill in the pill case by a user's fingertip without disturbing the other pills stored in the pill case.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case having individual pods and means for a user to assess the inventory of the medication in the pill case without opening it by providing transparent windows aligned with individual pods wherein pills are securely retained and protected.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case which prevents the movement or rattling of pills stored therein to protect the integrity and effectiveness of such pills.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a reusable pill case incorporating means for puncturing pre-packaging around medication upon closure of the case so that upon reopening the case the medication is immediately available for use.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide a highly portable reusable pill case formed from a single piece of material that includes multiple sub compartments, each sub compartment having different size pods to accommodate specific medications.
It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a highly portable credit card sized pill case having a surface for writing identification of the user and medication stored thereon.
These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from a review of the following specification and accompanying drawings.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is a reusable pill case for storing and securing individual pills wherein the case comprises a top half lid and a bottom half base connected on one side by a living hinge. On the other side of the pill case is provided a locking means such that the top half lid may be closed and secured to the bottom half base. Pods are provided as part of the pill case that securely retain and maintain the position of pills when the pill case is closed and locked to prevent movement of the pills. Crumbling, chipping, erosion and powdering of the pills over time is prevented by securing and retaining them within the pods.
The pods formed as part of the reusable pill case of the present invention comprise upstanding walls substantially enclosing the pills to be retained therein. The pods are sized appropriately to accommodate the particular pills that are retained therein. In the most preferred embodiment of the present invention, the pods are affixed to the bottom half base although it is specifically contemplated that the pods can also be affixed to the top half lid or can be partial cooperating pods affixed to the top half lid and bottom half base which combine to hold the pills securely in place. The pods of the present invention have the advantageous feature of a partial opening wherein a user may extract a pill stored in a pod by engaging the pill with a fingertip. The fingertip access opening allows for the extraction of a single pill without disturbing the remaining pills stored therein.
The most preferred embodiment of the present invention comprises a reusable pill case having transparent windows formed therein that align with the pill retaining pods so that a user may instantly assess the inventory of pills stored therein without opening the pill case. The windows are preferably formed in the top half lid of the pill case. By providing the windows as an inventory assessment means, the need for a user to open the pill case to check the inventory is eliminated, thereby reducing the risk of opening the case and spilling its contents.
On the exterior of the bottom half base a surface for providing vital information about the medication user and the medication itself is provided. Specifically, a user will be able to print identification information such as name and phone number, as well as the kind of medication stored within the reusable pill case, on the exterior of the pill case.
One of the preferred embodiments of the reusable pill case of the present invention comprises multiple sub cases, each having a top half lid and bottom half base connected on one side by a living hinge and on the other side by an individual locking means. The sub cases are attached so that a user may carry a single pill case accommodating multiple different medications, although the sub cases may be separately and independently opened and closed.
Another preferred embodiment of the present invention comprises raised sawtooth edges that cooperate with the upstanding walls of the pods to engage and puncture pre-packaging around medication, pills or gum stored therein. Upon closure of the top half lid on the bottom half base, the sawtooth edges engage the pre-packaging so that, upon reopening, the user needs only to remove the medication from the punched or punctured opened pre-packaging. The need for a user to manually peel or puncture the pre-packaging is eliminated thereby.