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Publication numberUS3831808 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateAug 27, 1974
Filing dateFeb 12, 1973
Priority dateOct 15, 1971
Publication numberUS 3831808 A, US 3831808A, US-A-3831808, US3831808 A, US3831808A
InventorsBender L
Original AssigneeBender L
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Pill cartridge for a pill dispenser
US 3831808 A
Mechanisms are disclosed for storing pills and dispensing them one at a time at indicated intervals. The dispenser includes a time interval read-out, and a mechanism for advancing the read-out by one pill time interval whenever a pill is withdrawn from storage. If the mechanism is operated but no pill is withdrawn, the time read-out does not advance. Replaceable pill cartridges and safety covers for the dispensing mechanism are also disclosed.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

United States Patent [1 1 Bender [111 3,831,808 Aug. 27, 1974 1 PILL CARTRIDGE FOR A PILL DISPENSER [76] Inventor: Louis Bender, 4 Heather Ln.,

Scotch Plains, NJ. 07076 [22] Filed: Feb. 12, 1973 [21] Appl. No: 331,644

Related US. Application Data [62] Division of Ser. No. 189,647, Oct. 15, 1971.

[52] US. Cl 221/197, 221/312, 206/42 [51] Int. Cl 865d 83/04 [58] Field of Search 221/7, 8, 117, 197, 243,

[5 6] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,917,162 12/1959 Horland 206/42 2,935,188 5/1960 Thomas 206/42 2,948,389 4/1960 Horland 206/42 3,199,668 8/1965 Brandeis 206/42 3,332,575 7/1967 Pilot et a1. 221/197 X 3,344,951 10/1967 Gervais 221/7 Primary Examiner-R0bert B. Reeves Assistant Examiner-Joseph J. Rolla Attorney, Agent, or Firm-St. Onge Mayers & Reens [57] ABSTRACT Mechanisms are disclosed for storing pills and dispensing them one at a time at indicated intervals. The dispenser includes a time interval read-out, and a mechanism for advancing the read-out by one pill time interval whenever a pill is Withdrawn from storage. If the mechanism is operated but no pill is Withdrawn, the time read-out does not advance. Replaceable pill cartridges and safety covers for the dispensing mechanism are also disclosed.

4 Claims, 34 Drawing Figures PAIENIElJauczmu sum as or 11 FIGZI- 40' File. 22

FIGQO Pmmmmczmn 3 sum user 11 PAIENIEOauczmn sum :10 or 11 PATNTEU 10:27am

sum r11 or 11 PILL CARTRIDGE FOR A PILL DISPENSER This application is a division of patent application for PILL TIMING DISPENSER AND REPLACEABLE CARTRIDGE THEREFOR filed by LOUIS BENDER on Oct. 15, 1971, bearing Ser. No. 189,647.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to pill carrying and dispensing devices, particularly those of the kind which indicate the time of the last and/or next dose.

BACKGROUND Large numbers of mechanisms are known to the prior art for storing and dispensing medication in various dosagev forms, particularly tablets or pills, while simultaneously keeping a running record of the time at which the patient took the last dose and/or is scheduled to take the next dose. Many types of medication are normally prescribed by doctors to be taken at regular intervals, such as once every four hours, once a day, or the like. An example of such medication is female hormone pills for birth or fertility control. A woman normally takes one of these pills a day for a period of several consecutive weeks. It is quite important that those who are on such a regimen not to wander too far from the prescribed schedule; yet lapses of memory have been something of a problem with some of the many women who employ this medication.

A number of prior art pill-timing dispensers are equipped with date-indicating discs, as for example, Barton U.S. Pat. No. 3,402,850 and Wagner U.S. Pat. No. 3,143,207. In some such mechanisms, the date wheel automatically rotates through an angular increment equivalent to one day (or other pill-taking interval) in response to operation of the pill dispensing mechanism. See, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,332,575 ofPilot, No. 3,227,127 of Gayle, No. 3,410,450 of Fortenberry, No. 3,344,951 of Gervais, and No. 3,51 1,409 of Huck. These mechanisms are designed so that the date wheels are read through an aperture or window formed in the side of the pill dispenser case.

The last-mentioned patent, Huck, is of particular interest in that the date wheel is formed with radial vanes which define pill-receiving recesses therebetween. The wheel picks up a single pill between a pair of vanes and rotates to move the pill from a storage reservoir to an output port. Another device with a similar pill-delivery wheel is seen in Gadenne U.S. Pat. No. 3,204,834.

The Huck patent is also of interest here in that the pill reservoir employed thereby is a removable and replaceable cartridge. The same is true of the Pilot patent cited above.

The pill-delivery wheel of Gadenne and the date wheel of Pilot are each equipped with an anti-reverse ratchet which, in the first case, prevents a pill from being moved back to the storage reservoir, and in the second case, prevents the date wheel from being rotated in the wrong direction relative to the calendar thereon.

The principal difficulty with such prior art devices resides in the fact that the date-indicating mechanisms thereof can be advanced to the next date (or whatever is the relevant time interval) by actuation of the pilldelivery mechanism, even if no pill is delivered thereby. In the Huck device particularly, where the date wheel is itself the pill-delivery mechanism, the date advances whenever the pill-delivery mechanism is operated, even if no pill is present. No prior art mechinism is known in which the date-indicating mechanism is not advanced unless a pill is actually delivered.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention comprises a pill storage and dispensing device of the type having an automatically advancing pill-timing interval indication of the general type just discussed; but it represents an improvement over prior art devices of this type in that the pilldelivery mechanism is incapable of advancing the timing indication unless it actually delivers a pill. In addition, reverse motion of the pill-delivery mechanism cannot drive the time read-out out of synchronism with the actual dosage schedule. Thus synchronism is strictly maintained under all circumstances.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the pill itself forms a mechanical drive coupling between the pill-delivery mechanism and the pill timing read-out. The preferred form of the invention also employs a novel type of replaceable pill cartridge which inserts one pill at a time into mechanical driving position, and controls initial setting of the date read-out mechanism.

In carrying out the invention, there is provided a dis penser having pill storage means, and means for extracting one pill at a time and delivering it to the user. The pill-transport means has a receptacle to contain a pill during the transport operation. In addition, there is a. pill timing interval read-out which is responsive to a pill contained in the receptacle to effect a one interval read-out advance during pill transport. The read-out, however, is not coupled to the pill-transport means when there is no pill in the receptacle.

Additional features of the invention concern safety closures to keep medicines out of unauthorized hands, and pill cartridges adapted to be removable and replaceable in the dispenser. Some embodiments of the pill cartridge permit opening of the cartridge after its insertion into the dispenser, and one of them is also adaptable for use as a free-standing pill package.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a pill-timing dispenser and replaceable cartridge in accordance with this invention, which are housed within .a compact type of case, shown with its cover open.

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of the same pill dispenser, cartridge and compact assembly.

FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the pill dispenser, compact and cartridge assembly, shown with the cover open.

FIG. 4 is a sectional view of the same assembly taken along the lines 4-4 of FIG. 3, looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 5 is a sectional view of the same assembly taken alongthe lines 5-5 of FIG. 3 looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 6 is a fragmentary sectional view of the same assembly taken along the lines 6-6 of FIG. 7A looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIGS. 7A through 7D are a sequence of fragmentary top plan views showing successive steps in the operation of the pill transport'and timing interval read-out mechanisms of the device of the preceding figures, with other parts removed for clarity of illustration.

FIGS. 8 and 9 are side elevational view of the replaceable pill cartridge of the preceding figures, seen before and during pill delivery respectively.

FIGS. 10 and 11 are perspective and exploded perspective views, respectively, of an alternative embodiment of a pill timing dispenser and replaceable cartridge in accordance with this invention. The cartridge is of the type which can be opened after insertion into the dispenser.

FIGS. 12 and 13 are vertical sections of the replaceable cartridge of FIGS. 10 and 11, seen respectively before and after the cartridge is opened.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a replaceable pill cartridge in accordance with this invention, of the type which is adapted to be opened after insertion into the pill dispenser of FIGS. 10 and 11.

FIG. 15 is a section taken along the lines -20 of FIG. 14, looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 16 is a section similar to FIG. 15, but shows the pill cartridge in its open condition, in contrast to the closed condition illustrated in FIGS. 14 and 15.

FIG. 17 is an exploded perspective view of the car tridge of FIGS. 14-16 in combination with the dispenser of FIGS. 101 1, illustrating insertion of the cartridge into the dispenser.

FIG. 18 is a sectional view of the same dispenser, with the cartridge inserted therein, taken along the lines 18'18 of FIG. 17, looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 19 is a top view of a free-standing pill package in accordance with this invention, which is similar to the replaceable cartridge of FIGS. l418.

FIG. 20 is a front elevation of the pill package of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a section taken along the lines 212l of FIG. 19, looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 22 is a similar section, but shows the pill package in its open condition, in contrast to the closed condition illustrated by FIGS. 19-21.

FIG. 23 is a top plan view of another alternative embodiment of a pill timing dispenser in accordance with this invention, with parts broken away and thereplaceable pill cartridge removed for clarity of illustration.

FIG. 24A is a section taken along the lines 2424 of FIG. 23, looking in the direction of the arrows; and includes another alternative embodiment of a replaceable pill cartridge in accordance with this invention as it would appear when inserted in place in the dispenser, and opened. The dispenser cover is seen closed.

FIG. 24B is a section identical to FIG. 24A except that it is an enlarged and fragmentary view, the cartridge is closed, and the dispenser cover is open.

FIG. 25 is a perspective view of the underside of the cartridge of FIG. 24, seen prior to opening and prior to insertion in the dispenser.

FIG. ,26 is similar view of the same cartridge, seen after opening and after removal from the dispenser.

FIG. 27 is a fragmentary section taken along the lines 2727 of FIG. 23, looking in the direction of the arrows.

FIG. 28 is an exploded perspective of still another alternative embodiment of a pill timing dispenser in accordance with this invention, having a latching cover.

FIG. 29 is an exploded section taken along lines 2929 of FIG. 28 looking in the direction of the arrows, with the cover closed but unlatched.

And FIG. 30 is a fragmentary section similar to FIG. 29, but showing the dispenser assembled and the latch closed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS As seen in FIG. 1, a pill storage and dispensing device in accordance with this invention includes a housing 10 designed to simulate a ladys cosmetic compact. The housing includes a lower half, or base member. 12 and an upper half, or cover. 14. The pill-storing, dispensing and time-interval read-out mechanisms are all mounted within the lower case half 12, and completely concealed by the cover 14 when the latter is closed. This permits a woman to carry about birth control pills in the device of this invention, while maintaining a degree of privacy. Anyone seeing the casing 10 in a womans purse would ordinarily assume that it is a conventional cosmetic compact, rather than a pill dispenser.

The two halves of the compact 12 and 14 may be integrally molded of a conventional fatigue-resistant plastic material such as polypropylene, and formed with an integrally molded flexible hinge webbing l6. Conventional interlocking snap elements 18 and 20 are formed at the front of the base member 12 and cover member 14 respectively, and serve to latch the compact in closed condition. I

Briefly stated, this dispenser incorporates a pillstorage hopper, means for transporting one pill at a time from the hopper, and a pill timing interval readout which is advanced only in response to motion of a pill carried in a receptable formed on the pill transport means. As seen in FIG. 2, the pill timing interval readout comprises markings 22 borne by a read-out disc 24 molded of conventional plastic material. The markings may be printed on the disc 24, or integrally embossed or engraved thereupon during the process of molding the disc 24, or may take the form of one or more adhesive labels. In this instance, the markings 22 represent the seven days of a week, and are designed for taking one-a-day pills. It will be readily appreciated, however, that the markings 22 could readily be altered to correspond to any other convenient time interval, such as one pill every few hours during the course of a day.

The read-out disc 24 is rotatably journaled within a circular depression 26 formed on the interior surface of the bottom wall 28 of the base member 12. A plurality of read-out drive vanes 30 are integrally embossed upon the upper surface of the disc 24, and are oriented substantially radially with respect to the axis of rotation of the disc. The vanes 30 are spaced circumferentially from each other to define therebetween a plurality of (in this case, specifically seven) circumferentially distributed pill-receiving recesses 32. Each such recess 32, which consists of the gap between the confronting surfaces of any two consecutive vanes 30, has a circumferential dimension sufficient to receive easily a pill or tablet of the size for which the dispenser is designed to be used. A circumferentially directed force which is exerted against any one of the vanes 30, as for example by a pill resting within the adjacent recess 32, is effective to rotate the read-out disc 22 within its circular depression 26.

A molded plastic platform member 38 of generally rectangular configuration overlies the read-out disc 24 and drive vanes 30, and is received within a generally rectangular recess defined by four upstanding side walls 40 which are part of the base member 12. The platform 38 has an upper level 42 generally forming the front half thereof, and a lower level 44 generally forming the rear half thereof. The lower level is formed with cut-outs 44a and 44b, and a projection 44c extending into the cut-out 44b. The projection 44c is formed with a downwardly extending circular boss which is received within a circular opening 34 formed in the center of the read-out disc 24, and helps to journal the disc for dateadvancing rotation.

A step 46 separates the upper level 42 from the lower level 44. The pill storage hopper of this dispenser comprises a shallow depression 48 bounded below by the lower level 44, and bounded peripherally by the step surface 46 and the adjacent portions of the upstanding side walls 40. For the purposes of this patent application, the term hopper is used to designate a pill storage space, whether or not the pills stored therein are packaged in a removable, replaceable cartridge. In this case, no upper confining wall is required for the hopper 48, since the pills 51 stored therein are preferably contained with a removable and replaceable plastic molded cartridge 50 which is designed to be inserted within the hopper as seen in FIG. 1. Alternatively the pills could be placed directly in the hopper 48 without any such additional envelope; but the cartridge ap proach is preferred for reasons of pharmaceutical quality control and packaging convenience.

The boundaries of the hopper 48 are generally rectangular, so far as they are'defined by the lower platform level 44 and the upstanding walls 40. But the step surfaces 46 are inclined forwardly in such manner that they converge toward the central region of the platform 38. The replaceable cartridge 50 is also generally rectangular in configuration, but includes a pair of inclined walls 52 which converge towards the front and center, and fit within the hopper outline defined by the inclined step surfaces 46. Consequently, when the dispenser of this invention is tipped forwardly, the pills 51 contained within the replaceable cartridge 50 and the hopper 58 are gravitationally funneled toward the front, central region thereof.

At the point of convergence of the inclined cartridge walls 52, the cartridge 50 is integrally formed with a forwardly projecting nozzle 54 having a substantially semi-circular front wall 54a. This nozzle is in communication with the interior of the cartridge 50 at that point to which all the pills 51 are funneled by the inclined walls 52, and is sized to receive only one pill at a time. A rectangular hopper exit opening 56 is formed in the platform step surfaces 46 at the point of convergence thereof, to permit the pill cartridge nozzle 54 to project forwardly of the step surfaces 46 to a position below i the dispenser hopper 48. Suitable forward projections of the walls 60, 62, and 64 define the inclined pill funneling surfaces 52 and the pill delivery nozzle 54. A portion of the bottom wall 64 is separable, by a manual tearing action, from the walls 62 of pill delivery nozzle 64, and is also scored along a tear line 66 for separation from bottom wall 64, to define a tear flap 68 which is entirely removable from the cartridge as indicated by arrow 70 to open the bottom of the pill delivery nozzle 54. As a result, any pill which is gravitationally fed by the funnel walls 52 intothe nozzle 54 after the tear flap 68 has been removed, it then permitted to fall vertically out of the nozzle 54 as indicated by pill 51.1 and arrow 72 in FIG. 9.

After the tear panel 68 has, been removed and the pill cartridge 50 has been inserted into the hopper 48, the pill delivery nozzle 54 extends forwardly through the hopper exit opening 56. Then, when the dispenser is tipped forwardly, one pill 51.1 will enter the nozzle 54 and will be gravitationally biased downwardly from the nozzle. One of the pill-receiving recesses 32 is located directly below the nozzle 54 to catch the pill 51.1 when it falls. But the pill is normally prevented from entering the pill-receiving recess by means of a molded plastic pill-transport member 74 having an integral flange 76 which is interposed horizontally between the pilldelivery nozzle 54 and the plane of rotation of the pillreceiving recesses 32, as illustrated in FIG. 5.

The pill transport member 74 also includes an integrally molded block 78 which is slidably received with a channel 80 extending transversely about halfway across the upper platform level 42 so as to mount the entire pill transport member 74 for left-right sliding movement thereacross. The flange 76 extends from the slide block 78 rearwardly toward the cartridge 50, below the level of the upper platform level 42, so as normally to block the downward exit of a pill 51 from the nozzle 54. Projecting upwardly from the slide block 78 is an integrally molded actuator button 82 which is accessible to the user of this pill dispenser from above the platform 38 for sliding the pill transport member 74.

A flexible, integrally molded step pawl 84 is struck upwardly at a shallow angle from the upper platform level 42, leaving a rectangular pawl-receiving window i6 formed in the platform directly below the pawl. The pawl 84 engages surface 88 of the actuator button 82 as seen in FIG. 1, thus preventing the pill transport member 74 from sliding to the left, and keeping the flange 76 in position to block egress of a pill 51 from nozzle 54. When, however, it is decided to move the pilltransport member 74 to the left, the stop pawl 84 is easily flexed downwardly into its receiving window 86, permitting the pill transport member 74 to ride over the pawl. The transport member 74 then keeps pawl 84 depressed during the entire timethat the transport member is displaced in that direction. Note in FIG. 4 that the stop pawl 84 is preferably designed with a thinner cross sectional region 88 at the place where it merges'into the platform 38, to facilitate such downward flexing. I

The pill transport member 74 is formed with a horizontal kerf 90 extending between the actuator button 82 and the slide block 78, to receive a connecting web 92 which is an integral part of the platform 38. This web 92 connects the portions of the platform 38 on either side of the slide channel 80 and the pawl-receiving window 86, thus strengthening the platform member 38. It also supports and guides the pill transport member 74 in its left-right sliding motion.

The sliding pill transport member 74 is formed with a pill transport receptacle in the form of an aperture 94 extending vertically through the flange 76. The leftward extreme of the sliding motion of pill transport member 74 (illustrated in FIG. 7A) is reached when a stop ledge 96 cut into one corner of the flange 76 strikes against a limiting surface 98 (FIGS. 2, 4, and formed at the underside of the platform 38. In this leftward limiting position of the pill transport member 74, the pill transport aperture 94 lines up with the pill delivery nozzle 54 and one of the pill-receiving recesses 32 directly below it, and allows one pill 51.1, as seen in FIG. 6, to drop downwardly out of the nozzle 54, and thus to enter the transport aperture 94 and receiving recess 32. A window 58 is cut through the platform upper level 42, permitting the user to look through that window and through the transparent upper surface 60 of nozzle 54 to determine that a pill has actually dropped into aperture 94 before attempting to operate the transport member 74.

If the dispenser is inclined at the time pill 51.1 drops into aperture 94, another pill 51.2 will enter the nozzle 54 directly above the pill 51.1, but all vertical dimensions are so chosen that the second pill 51.2 is prevented by the first pill 51.1 from also dropping downwardly out of the nozzle. Thus, the two pills rest one above the other as seen in FIG. 6.

The platform upper-level 42 is formed with a pill output port 100 extending vertically therethrough. After pill 51.1 drops vertically from the nozzle 54 into the pill-transport aperture 94, the pill transport member 74 is slid to the right, using the actuator button 82 for that purpose. When the transport member reaches the rightmost extreme of its motion (illustrated in FIG. 7D), which is determined by contact with the adjacent upstanding wall 40, the transport aperture 94 is aligned directly below the output port 100. Once the pill is thus delivered to a position directly below the output port 100, it is only necessary for the user to invert the dispenser mechanism, and the pill 51 will tumble out of the aperture 94, through the port 100, and into the waiting hand of the user. When the pill transport mem ber 74 returns to its right hand limiting position, it allows the pawl 84 to spring back into blocking position.

Once the pill 51 is removed from the openings 32, 94, and 100, the surface of the read-out disc 24 becomes visible therethrough. Thus, the pill output port 100 serves as a reading index for a first one of two groups of indicia on the disc 24, each comprising seven day markings indicating Sunday through Saturday. The markings 22.1 of the first group are located adjacent to corresponding pill-receiving recesses 32, and arranged to be readable through port 100 as seen in FIG. 1. These markings 22.1 indicate the day on which the last pill 51.1, i.e. the one just removed from port 100, was taken. To avoid confusion, the first series of markings 22.1 is not visible anywhere else on the disc 24 because they are masked by that portion of platform lower level 44 which is situated between cut-outs 44a and 44b, and by upper level 42.

As best seen in FIG. 5, the flange 75 of the pill transport member 74 slides back and forth between its left and right extremes of motion across the top surface of the read-out drive vanes 30. Consequently, there is normally no driving connection between the drive vanes 30 of the read-out disc 24 and the pill transport member 74 as the latter slides between its pill pickup position at the left, and its pill delivery position at the right. As a result, motion of the pill-transport member 74 which does not involve the actual transport of a pill 51 from one of the pill-receiving recesses 32 to the pill output port cannot be effective to drive the readout disc 24.

On the other hand, when there is a pill 51 resting in one of the receiving recesses 32, that pill forms a mechanical driving connection between the aperture 94 of the pill transport member 74 and the drive vanes 30 of the read-out disc 24 forms disc 24. With reference to FIG. 6, it is seen that the read-out disc 24 forms the bottom surface of the pill-receiving recesses 32 between each pair of adjacent drive vanes 30. The depth of these recesses is shallow in relation to the vertical thickness of the pill 51 resting therein. As a result, when a pill is in, for example, recess 32.1, the upper part of the pill extends upwardly into the pill-transport aperture 94 of flange 76, and thus is fully engaged with both the aperture 94 and drive vane 30.1. Accordingly, when the pill-transport member 74 moves to the right from the initial position of FIG. 7A through those of FIG. 7B and then FIG. 7C, the left edge of the aperture 94 exerts a pill-transporting force to the right against the pill 51.1 as indicated by arrows 102. The resulting motion of the pill 51.1 then exerts a circumferential force, indicated by arrows 106 in FIGS. 78 and 7C, against vane 30.1 immediately to the right of the pill. The pill is constrained by the sliding transport member 74 to move in a straight line to the right, while the driven vane 30.1 moves to the right and, at the same time, also swings upwardly to take part in the rotation of read-out disc 24. But as the vane rotates, the direction of the force exerted thereon (arrow 106) remains circumferential. Thus, the linear motion of slide 74 imparts an angular read-out-advancing motion to the read-out disc 24, in the counter-clockwise direction as indicated by arrows 108.

The slide flange 76, as seen in FIG. 6, has a thickness such that, in removing the lower pill 51.1, the trailing portion of the flange slides under the upper pill 51.2 to prevent the latter pill from falling downwardly from the nozzle 54 and thereby blocking the return of flange 76. In order to allow for small variations in the vertical thickness of the pills 51, however, the flange 76 is provided with a chamfered surface 112 sloping down toward the pill-transport aperture 94 from the left. This permits the flange 76 reliably to cam under the second pill 51.2, without danger of its becoming jammed against thepill. Such jamming would interfere with the smooth operation of the dispenser, and possibly damage the second pill 51.2.

Thereafter, the trailing portion of the flange 76 remains below the next pill 51.2, to prevent it from dropping vertically down out of the nozzle 54. Then, when it is time to take the next pill, the user slides the pill transport member 74 back to the left, and the pill transport aperture 94 comes back into alignment with the nozzle 54, allowing the next pill 51.2 to drop into the aperture for transport to the output port 100 as described above.

The mechanical coupling between the sliding pill 51.1 and the adjacent drive vane 30.1 terminates shortly after the position illustrated in FIG. 7C, as the pill passes a corner 30a of the vane, which is rounded to allow the pill to slip by. The dispenser is designed so that this decoupling occurs before the final position seen in FIG. 7D is reached, to avoid the risk of jamming the pill between the vane 30.1 and transport aperture 94.

Some other provision must then be made for rectifying the read-out disc 24, i.e. driving it fully to its next incremental angular position. This is necessary in order to indicate the next successive pill-taking time unambiguously, and to align the next successive pillreceiving recess 32.2 accurately with the pill-delivery nozzle 54 so that the next pill 51.2 will fall properly into place. The lower surface of the slide flange 76 is therefore provided with a rectifying pawl 114 which has a generally triangular configuration including a vertex 114a pointed in the direction of pill-delivery motion, i.e. to the right as seen in FIG. 7. FIG. 4 reveals that the rectifying pawl 114 projects downwardly below the bottom of flange 76 and into the plane of the read-out drive vanes 30. Before the pill 51.1 decouples from vane 30.], the triangular nose 114a of the rectifying pawl enters pill-receiving recess 32.3 (see FIG. 7C). Then after decoupling occurs, pawl 114 engages drive vane 30.3. Thereafter, as the pill transport member 74 moves to its final position, pawl 114 moves vane 30.3 and read-out disc 24 all the way to its next incremental read-out position; i.e., Monday replaces Sunday as the day indication visible through the aperture 94 in FIG. 7D. The rear surface l14b of the rectifying pawl is positioned so that it then engages a somewhat pointed corner 30b of vane 30.4 to prevent read-out disc 24 from over-shooting its final position. For this purpose, the corners 30a and 30b of each vane are dissimilarly shaped; i.e. each vane 30 is asymmetrical about its center line. Each vane has one corner 30a which is rounded for ease of pill disengagement and an opposite corner 30b which is distinctly more pointed to engage the rectifying pawl surface 11412 at the proper time.

In the position of FIG. 7D, the vane 30.4 which engages pawl surface 114b is not interposed in the path of leftward movement of pawl 114, and thus does not block subsequent return of the pill transport member 74 to withdraw the next pill 51.2. When leftward return of the pill transport member 74 occurs, the transport member is decoupled from the read-out disc 24, provided the delivered pill 51.1 has been removed from aperture 94; and thus the day indication 22.1 is not turned back from Monday to Sunday. On the other hand, if the patient changes her mind about taking the pill 51.1 just then, or for any other reason returns the transport member 94 to the left while the pill 51.1 is still in the aperture 94, then the transport member re mains coupled to the read-out disc 24, and therefore properly returns the day indication 22.1 from Monday to Sunday as the member 74 returns the pill 51.1 to the position of FIG. 7A; Thus, whether the pill is withdrawn or not, under both circumstances the day indication adheres to the actual dosage withdrawn from the dispenser.

For initial setting of the read-out disc 24, there must not be a pill in the aperture 94. The user first withdraws pill transport member 74 to the left, so that rectifying pawl 114 is decoupled from the nearest vane 30.4 (see FIG. 7D). Then the user may reach through the cut-out 44b which is provided for that purpose, and manually engage the drive vanes 30 to rotate the disc 24. Note that this operation can only be performed before the cartridge 50 is inserted into the hopper 48, and thus before any pills are dispensed. Therefore, the setting operation takes place at a time when dosage synchronism cannot be manually altered. After the read-out is set to an initial position and the cartridge 50 inserted, as seen in FIGS. 1 and 3, the cartridge blocks access to the disc 24 through cut-out 4417, so that subsequent read-out changes can occur only by disposing a pill for each time interval advance. Thus dosage synchronism is preserved.

In addition to the first group of markings 22.1, a sec ond identical group of seven day markings 22.2 is located on the readout disc 24 radially outwardly of the first group 22.1. These markings 22.2 are also masked by platform levels 42 and 44, and are visible (as seen in FIGS. 1 and 7) only through a window 44d which is an inlet of cut-out 44a. Thus, the window 44d serves as a readingindex for the second group of day markings 22.2. The markings 22.2 are so synchronized with markings 22.1 as always to indicate the day upon which the next pill 51 is to be taken, and are only visible before the cartridge 50 is inserted. Thus they are used only for initially setting the read-out disc 24 to indicate the day when the first pill is to be taken. Afterward the markings 22.2 are hidden by the opaque bottom wall 64 of cartridge 50 (see FIGS. 1 and 3), and therefore cannot be confused with the pill indicia 22.1.

The discussion which follows, concerning the alternative pill dispenser embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 14-30, is for the most part keyed to the preceding dis cussion of FIGS. 1-13 by using reference numerals the last two digits of which match the last two digits of the reference numerals applied to elements performing corresponding functions in previously described embodiments.

The alternative pill dispenser embodiment of FIGS. 10 and 11 is similar in most respects to the embodiment just described, but exhibits certain differences which will now be described. The locking pawl 84 of the previous embodiment is omitted, and in its place the pill transport member 274 of the present embodiment is provided with a flexible detenting pawl 400 formed with a tooth 402 which cooperates with a detenting recess 404 formed on the platform member 238 below the upper deck 242 thereof. The pawl tooth 402 engages the recess 404 to detain the pill transport member 274 releasably in its right-hand limiting position.

In addition, the step surface 246 is straight rather than converging, giving the pill hopper 248 a generally rectangular shape, and allowing it to accept a generally rectangular cartridge 250 comprising a transparent top wall 260 and non-transparent bottom wall 264 joined by four vertical walls 262. The cartridge 250 snaps into place within the hopper 248 when :a plurality of projections 406, 408, and 410 are frictionally received respectively within recess 506 (formed on the back wall 240 of the base member 212), and recesses 508 and 510 (fonned on the step surface 246).

The cartridge 250 is olded of a fracturable plastic material and has a break-off tab 412 formed as an integral'forward extension of the top wall 260. When the cartridge 250 is snapped into place within the hopper 248, the break-off tab overlies the upper deck 242 as seen in FIG. 10, and thus is accessible for breaking off after the cartridge has been loaded into the dispenser of FIGS. and 11. A central gate portion 414 (see FIGS. 11 and 12) of the cartridge front wall 262 is entirely separate from the remainder of the front wall 262 (i.e., is divided therefrom at the lateral edges of the gate panel 414), and also is separate from the bottom wall 264 (i.e. is divided therefrom along the bottom edge of gate panel 414). The gate is integrally connected to, and thus held in place by, only the break-off tab 412 and a reinforcing rib 416 (FIGS. 12) which connects the two.

The cartridge 250 of FIGS. 10-13 has an advantage over the cartridge 50 of FIGS. 1 through 9 in that it can be loaded into the hopper 248 while the gate 414 is in place. Thus pills 251 are thereby positively retained inside the cartridge during loading. Then, after loading, the cartridge 250 can be opened in place by pulling up on the tab 412 which is accessible from above the upper deck 242 (see arrow 418 in FIG. 12), to break off the tab 412 and its attached gate panel 414. These parts are thus severed from the top wall 260, and discarded. The removal of the gate then leaves a one-pillwide and one-pill-high portal 420 (FIG. 13) or opening in the front wall 262 through which pills 251 drop one at a time out of the cartridge 250 (see arrow 422, FIG. 13) and then slide over the flange 276 and fall into the aperture 294 of pill transport member 274 and one of the pill-receiving recesses 232 of the date wheel 224.

During break-off, the reinforcing rib exerts an upward force on the gate panel 414 to assure its removal along with the tab 412. A suitable kerf 424 is cut just rearwardly of pill-viewing window 258 to accommodate the rib 416.

The dispenser of FIGS. 10 and 11 also differs in another respect from that of the preceding figures. As previously noted, someone might attempt to return the pill transport member while the delivered pill is still in the pill transport aperture. Even though this cannot disturb the synchronism between read-out and dosage schedule, it might be advisable to provide an antireverse mechanism for the read-out disc 224. This takes the form of a flexible pawl 220 molded integrally with the lower platform level 244, and projecting into the cut-out 244a thereof. The anti-reverse pawl 220 is formed with a tooth which projects radially inwardly (relative to read-out disc 224) into successive engagement with seven detent notches 222, one for each readout position, formed at spaced locations around the circumference of the disc 224. As seen in FIG. 11, the notches 222 areasymmetrical, and the tooth of pawl 220 is shaped to cooperate therewith in a manner that permits forward but not reverse angular motion of the read-out disc. As a result, the pawl 220 is able to yield flexibly and ride out of the detent notches 222 when the disc is rotated in the forward direction, but locks against the detent notches when an attempt is made to rotate the disc the wrong way.

Consequently, even if the delivered pill is left in the transport aperture 294, the read-out disc 224 cannot be driven in the reverse direction. If one attempts to drive it in the reverse direction by means of the pill transport member 274, the pill transport member cannot be moved. Thus, once a pill 251 becomes available at the output port 200, the read-out unalterably reflects that fact.

Another advantage of the anti-reverse mechanism 220, 222 resides in the fact that it also accomplishes final rectification of the read-out disc 224. The pill transport member 274 need only rotate the read-out disc 224 for enough for one of the detent notches 222 to capture the anti-reverse pawl 220, and thereafter the pawl automatically rectifies the disc as it settles into the bottom of that particular detent notch. After it bottoms in the detent notch, the pawl holds thedisc 224 precisely in the rectified position. The pill transport member 274 need not, and does not, drive the disc all the way to its rectified position, which eliminates the danger that it will cause the disc 224 to over-shoot the desired stopping point. As a result, it is unnecessary in this embodiment to make the vanes 230 asymmetrical in order to avoid overshooting (see the discussion of corners 30a and 30b above).

Another type of removable and replaceable pill cartridge which is designed to fit in the dispenser of FIGS. 10 and 11, and to be opened after the cartridge is loaded into the dispenser, isillustrated in FIGS. 14 through 18. This cartridge, which is generally designed to fit in the dispenser of FIGS. 10 and 11, and to be opened after the cartridge is loaded into the dispenser, is illustrated in FIGS. 14 through 18. This cartridge, which is generally designated 130, comprises a generally rectangular enclosure molded of a flexible plastic material, and includes a floor panel 132, roof panel 134, and side panels 136. The top panel 134 and two opposing side panels 136 are slit at locations 138, however, to form a pair of rocker panels 140 at opposite sides of the cartridge 130. The panels 140 are molded in such an attitude that they both slant upwardly and outwardly from a central region 142, and thereby rise above the level of the top panel 134 as seen in FIGS. 14 and 15. The central region 142 is the only location at which the opposed panels 140 are attached to the top panel 134, or indeed to the remainder of the cartridge 130.

The material of the top panel 134 permits a certain degree or torsional deflection. As a result, if one of the rocker panels 140 is depressed as indicated by arrow 144 in FIG. 16, central region 142 twists about its longitudinal axis and causes the opposite rocker panel 140 to rise see-saw fashion, thus enlarging the space 146 between the raised panel 140 and the floor panel 132 immediately below it. In order to appreciate this fact, compare the size of space 146 in FIG. 15, where both panels 140 are in their normal positions, and the same space 146 as seen in FIG. 16 where one of the panels 140 is depressed and the other is correspondingly elevated.

The raising of one panel 140 by depressing the opposite panel enables space 146 to be opened and closed so that it functions as a controllable pill portal. The dimensions of the cartridge are chosen so that the pills 151 contained within the cartridge are too large vertically to pass through the spaces 146 on either side of the cartridge, when neither of the panels is displaced. But the space 146 does open wide enough in the vertical direction to admit the passage of a pill 151, as indicated by arrow 148 in FIG. 16, when the opposite panel 140 is sufficiently depressed in the manner illustrated. I

In order to permit the cartridge 132 to withstand the degree of flexure required by this operating mode, the central region 142 of the top panel has a reduced thickness in a roughly oval indicated by a line 152. In addi tion, in order to relieve strains in the top panel 134, circular openings 154 are formed at the terminations of the severance lines 138 which divide the elevated panels 140 from the remainder of the top panel 134.

In order to retain the cartridge 130 in place in the dispenser of FIGS. and 11, it is formed with three tabs 406, 408 and 410'. These correspond to the tabs 406, 408, and 410 of the cartridge illustrated in FIGS. 10 through 13, and are similarly positioned to cooperate with recesses 506, 508, and 510 to retain the cartridge in the dispenser. FIG. 17 illustrates the way in which the cartridge 130 is inserted into the dispenser. FIG. 18 shows the cartridge 130 received within the storage hopper of the dispenser, and shows the tabs frictionally engaged within their cooperating recesses. Also in FIG. 18 it is clearly seen that cartridge tab 406' and its cooperating dispenser recess 506 not only assist the other cartridge tabs 408, 410 and the dispenser recesses 508, 510 in retaining the cartridge 130 in place within the dispenser, but also retain the rear rocker panel 140.1 in depressed position, so that the front rocker panel 140.2 is raised, permitting tablets 151 to be released from the cartridge 130 and delivered by the pill transport mechanism of the dispenser. It will therefore be appreciated that the cartridge 130 can be inserted in place within the dispenser hopper 248 before depressing one of the rocker panels 140 to open the cartridge. Then, as the cartridge is pressed into place in the hopper, and the rear rocker panel 140.1 is depressed sufficiently to engage tab 406' in recess 506, the front rocker panel 140.2 is raised sufficiently to open the cartridge and permit the exit of pills 151 (see arrow 148 in FIG. 18).

In order to fill cartridges 130 with pills 151 at production speeds, the cartridges may be formed in two separate parts. The first part is a top member comprising the top panel 134, side panels 136, rocker panels 140, and the tab 406. The other part comprises the bottom panel 132 and the tabs 408 and 4110. Prior to assembly of the two parts, the top member 134, etc. is inverted to serve as a pill-receiving dish, and the appropriate number of pills 151 are dropped in. Then, while the top member 134 etc. is still in its inverted position and the pills 151 are contained therein, the other member 136 etc. is assembled therewith and secured in place, as for example by ultrasonic or solvent welding.

Because of the fact that it recloses upon release of the rocker panel pressure represented by arrow 144 in FIG. 16, the type of cartridge illustrated in FIGS. 14 through 18 is also useful as a free-standing pill package (i.e. one which is used apart from a dispenser.) Thus, FIGS. 19-22 show a free-standing pill package 330 which is basically similar in construction to the cartridge 130 of FIGS. 14-18. It includes a bottom panel 332, a top panel 334 and side panels 336. The top panel is divided along lines 338 into elevated panels 340 which rock in see-saw fashion about a central region 342. The rocking action is aided by circular openings 354 and a reduced thickness in the area indicated by line 352. The opening and closing action of the package 330 is entirely similar to that of cartridge 130 described above. Thus, FIG. 21 shows panels 340 at equal height, leaving the pill cartridge in closed condition; while in FIG. 22 it is seen that pressure represented by an arrow 344 depresses one of the panels 340 and raises the other one high enough to permit pills 351 to exit through an opening 346 as indicated by arrow 348.

Package 330 differs from cartridge 130, however, in that it lacks the tabs 406, 408 and 410' for cooperation with a dispenser as indicated in FIGS. 17 and 18. This is because the package 330 is intended to be used as a free-standing pill package, without any automatic date indicating or advancing features. For example, it is particularly useful as an inexpensive aspirin tablet package. When the pressure represented by arrow 344 of FIG. 22 is released, the package 330 spontaneously returns to the closed condition illustrated by FIG. 21. Thus, the user can carry the pill package 330 about in a purse or pocket, confident that the pills 351 will not escape. Yet when the need for a pill arises, simple pressure on one of the panels 340 is enough to raise the opposite panel 340 and open the portal 346 wide enough for a pill 351 to escape.

In a preferred embodiment of the pill-package 330, provision is made to prevent more than one or two pills 351 from passing through the portal 356 at a given time. This consists of a pill barrier 360 which surrounds on three sides a pill trap in the form of a depressed pocket 362 formed in the bottom panel 332. The height of the barrier 360 is such that each one of the pills 351 has sufficient clearance to pass between the barrier and the adjacent rocker panel 340 when the latter is in its normal (i.e. closed) position as illustrated in FIG. 21. The user manually inverts and jostles pill package 330 so that one or more pills 351 are thrown over the bar rier 360. Once the pocket 362 is filled, however, no more pills 351 can enter it. The pocket 362 is made large enough to hold a predetermined number of pills, which depends upon the type of medication. If the package 330 is used for aspirin, which is normally taken in double dosage, the recess 360 would be large enough to hold two tablets. Once the trap 360, 362 is filled with the appropriate number of pills, then the portal 346 can be opened as illustrated in FIG. 22, and the pill package 330 inclined so that all the pills 351 which are within the packet 362 will fall out. But the pill barrier 360 will prevent any other pills 351 from reaching the open portal 346 at that time.

FIGS. 23, 24, 24A and 27 illustrate still another embodiment of a pill dispenser in accordance with this invention, which is generally similar to the preceding embodiments except for the following features. First, an anti-reverse mechanism in this embodiment comprises a plurality of flexible, tangentially oriented pawls 620 which are molded integrally with the read-out disc 624, and cooperate with a single detent notch 622 formed in a ridge 623 integrally molded on the bottom surface of the lower deck 644. FIG. 23 illustrates one of the anti-reverse pawls engaged in the detent notch to prevent retrograde motion of the disc 624. Since anti-reverse mechanisms inherently accomplish rectification as well, the vanes 630 of disc 624 are symmetrical.

A second distinctive feature of this embodiment relates to its cooperation with another type of pill cartridge 650 designed to be opened after insertion into the dispenser. As seen in FIGS. 25 and 26, this cartridge comprises a bottoom sheet 664 of molded plastic material. The bottom layer is formed into a dish shape to define a shallow rectangular pill receptacle 665, and a peripheral flange 667. A top plastic sheet 660 overlies the receptacle and flange, and the portion 660a thereof which covers flange 667 is heat-sealed thereto in order to form a closed pill package.

To facilitate opening of the cartridge 650, the front edge of the flange 667 of bottom layer 664 is extended forwardly to define a tear tab 612. This tab is scored for removal from the remainder of flange 667 along lines 669. These lines are extended across the front wall 662 of receptacle 665 as indicated by score lines 671. The latter lines are joined by a transverse score line 673 which cooperates therewith to define a removable gate panel 614 which is joined to the tear tab 612 along an unscored fold line 673. Thus the tear tab 612 can be pulled forwardly as indicated by arrow 675 to remove the gate panel 614. The latter then separates entirely from the pill receptacle 665 along score lines 671 and 673, leaving an open portal 620 (FIG. 26) formed in the front wall 662, through which pills 651 can emerge.

The present cartridge, like those of FIGS. 10 through 18, can be opened after insertion into the appropriate dispenser. Referring to FIGS. 23, 24 and 24A, the upper deck 642 of the dispenser illustrated therein is formed with a curved surface 642a which earns the tear tab 612 upwardly upon cartridge insertion. The curvature, and its camming action in relation to tab 612, are illustrated in FIG. 24A. The camming surface 642a surrounds the pill-viewing window 658 formed in deck 642, and is directly behind a transverse bridge member 677. Side surfaces 679 at a lowermost level of the hop per 648 are laterally spaced apart the right distance to receive the lower pill receptacle portion 665 of cartridge 650. The upper flanges 667, 660a are received between more widely spaced upper surfaces 681 of the hopper 648. In addition, the cartridge flanges slide underneath a pair of lips 683 which are undercut at 693 (FIG. 24A) to receive the flanges and thereby retain the cartridge to the dispenser. When the cartridge 650 is fully inserted, the front edge of the flange strikes against the front surface 685 of hopper 648. The forwardly projecting tear tab 612, however, slides under the bridge 677 and is cammed upwardly through window 658 by curved surface 642a. This makes the tear tab 612 accessible from above surface 642, so that it can be pulled off as indicated by arrow 675 to open the cartridge after insertion in the dispenser. Pills 651 can then move forwardly out of the cartridge 650 as indicated by arrow 687, and fall downwardlyinto one of the pill receptacles 632 as indicated by arrow 689.

In order to keep dirt out and the pills 651 in, a lid is provided to block the window 658 after opening the cartridge 650. The lid consists of a tab 66% integral with the cartridge upper layer 660. This tab, plus an extension 6600, projects forwardly from the cartridge and is initially coextensive with the tear tab 612 therebelow. The extension 660a is heat-sealed to the tear tab 612 in order to keep cartridge 650 closed until the time comes to open it, and in order to make elements 6600, 66 0b and 612 act as a unit yvj ncammed upwardly by curved surface 642a. Lid 660b, liowe i/E, is separable from its extension 660C along a score line 691 and is not heat-sealed to the removable tear tab 612. Consequently. as seen in FIGS. 25 and 26, the tear tab 612 and extension 6600 are removed together, and leave behind the lid 6601) to close off window 658. Plastic layer 660 is transparent. however. so that the user can look through it to .verify that a pill 651 has entered the receptacle 632 when using the dispenser.

Note in FIG. 24A that lid 660b and its extension 6606 together are long enough to extend above the surface of deck 642 for ease of grasping before the cartridge 650 is opened, but afterward the shorter length of the remaining lid portion 660!) causes it to fall below the surface of the deck 642 (as indicated by the dashed lines) where it is out of the way.

A third distinctive feature of the dispenser of FIGS. 23, 24 and 27 relates to detecting means for establishing two distinct operating positions for the pill transport member 674. With reference to FIGS. 23 and 27, a rounded boss 610 is integrally molded on the upper surface of deck 642, and protrudes into the path of slide button 682 during pill delivery (i.e. leftward) movement of the transport member 674. In order to move out of its rest position and deliver a pill, the slide button 682 must ride over the boss 601. A groove 603 is formed in the underside of the button, and a dimple 605 is also formed therein near the end of the groove. An unrelieved space between dimple 605 and the trailing end of groove 603 defines, in effect, a ridge 607. At the leading end of groove 603 a similar unrelieved space defines, in effect, a ridge 609.

When the transport member 674 is moved to the left for pill delivery purposes, boss 601 snaps under ridge 609, after which it rides within the groove 603. At the end of the pill delivery travel of member 674, boss 601 snaps under ridge 607, and the pill transport member 674 comes to rest with the boss received in dimple 605, thus precisely defining the leftward extreme of pill transport motion. When the pill transport member is returnedto the right, boss 601 snaps under ridge 607, travels through groove 603 in the opposite direction, and finally snaps under the ridge 609. The final position, illustrated in FIG. 27 precisely defines the rightward extreme of member 674.

Another distinctive feature of this embodiment relates to locking the cover 614 so that a child finding the dispenser would have difficulty in reaching the pill cartridge 650 inside. As best seen in FIGS. 23 and 24, the dispenser cover 614 terminates at a front edge 614a which falls just behind the slide button 682 when the I cover 614 is closed. In addition, as seen in FIGS. 23, 24

and 27, the front edge 614a is formed with a forwardly projecting flange 614b at the right hand side of the cover 614. A corresponding slot 682a is formed in the rear surface of slide button 682 at the right hand side thereof, and is appropriately sized to receive the cover flange 61411 in sliding engagement therewith. When the cover 614 is closed (as shown by the solid lines), and pill transport member 674 is moved to the right to its rest position, slot 682a slides into engagement with flange 614b. The resulting engagement causes button 7 682 to retain cover 614 in its closed position. The cover then can not be raised to its open position (shown by dashed lines) unless the pill transport member 674 is first moved far enough to the left to release the slot 682a from flange 614b.

FIGS. 28 through 30 illustrate still another embodiment of a pill dispenser in accordance with this invention, which is generally similar to the embodiment of FIGS. 23 and 24, but differs in two important respects, one pertaining to the molding of the dispenser, and the other to a latching closure for the cover of the dispenser.

The embodiment of FIGS. 28 thorugh 30 is advantageously molded of only four separate parts: one which

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U.S. Classification221/197, 221/312.00R
International ClassificationB65D83/04, A61J7/04, B65D83/00
Cooperative ClassificationB65D2101/00, B65D2583/0409, B65D83/0409, B65D2215/04, B65D2583/0481, A61J7/04, B65D2215/02, B65D2583/005
European ClassificationA61J7/04, B65D83/04A