Pillbox Digital Drug Information Platform

What is Pillbox?external image Pillbox_banner.png

Every year, poison control centers get more than one million calls for pill identification. Each one of those calls costs nearly $50. New innovations in the technology sector are helping health informatics researchers collaborate on better ways of identifying drugs and lowering costs.

David Hale in partnership with the National Library of Medicine (NLH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have created an easy to use pill identification system called Pillbox. This system determines what type of pill you have, the dosage, and the recommended use in an easy to convey format. The web application allows users to determine what unknown drugs are based on their shape, color, and other manufacturer specific markings.

Earlier this year, Pillbox opened its data to the public. The new access in the public domain will allow Pillbox to be thoroughly tested. Hale hopes to educated the masses with this available technology. He says, "Bring them in, show them the data, talk to them about the challenges their facing, and work with them to restructure that data in a way that’s useful for them”.

Pillbox Versus The Internet

external image FacebookPharmVille.png
Pillbox is an open source system giving others, outside the government, a chance to improve citizen health in their own way. All the source code for the project is available from the Pillbox Space on Github.
David Hale, the program manager for Pillbox, said Pillbox is a “collection of projects focused on a single goal: improving the health of citizens.” After distributing the code, developers took it to Facebook in the form of a game called PharmVille (not yet released). The object of this game is to diagnose virtual patients by looking up the pills the virtual doctors prescribe and giving them to the patients.

Pillbox Versus Washington

The Federal Register is a excellent way to market pillbox due to the fact that it takes complex government bureaucracy and simplifies it for ordinary citizens to understand. Hale and the NLH are currently in the process of asking pharmaceutical companies to send samples of their products to add to the database. “That would enable images of drugs based upon a single body of standards, which could then enable identification through smartphones,” said Hale. “The secret sauce isn't the images when this is done but the background processing. We’re creating tools and services which make open data available to everyone, accessible, and in the public domain.”

The presentation below is the proposal for Pillbox

Pillbox Library

The overall goal of the Pillbox is to create a public library of high-quality images. These images can be used as references for smart devices to identify loose and unknown pills.
As of September 2013 Pillbox contains images for 11,779 products. These covers about half of the prescription medications available in the United States.

Screenshot of pillbox dashboard available at http://pillbox.nlm.nih.gov/
Screenshot of pillbox dashboard available at http://pillbox.nlm.nih.gov/

Speed Bumps for Pillbox

Pillbox has a variety of issues to still overcome before it can be a 100% reliable technology. A major issue it is facing is there are different versions of the same pill depending on who manufactured it. Another issue is the color of a pill. The color of a pill can be a very misleading piece of information and should not be taken into account. That being said, Pillbox has still provided it as a field for users to choose from.

API Feature

The new feature of the Pillbox, API, allows people to generate their own applications with the data from the Library. Hale hopes to create the opportunity for innovation. “By doing this, we free ourselves from the platform and we really start to focus on the data, and that’s led us to this idea of driving traffic to our data, instead of driving traffic to our website…and that’s the model we’re trying to follow is to push our data as far out as we can so that it can be leveraged by really anyone who has a use for that data”.

Contact Pillbox

For any questions refering to Pillbox please email pillbox@mail.nih.gov .


Disaboom - http://www.disaboom.com/caregiving-general/caregivers-use-pillbox-to-identify-loose-pills
National Institutes of Health - http://www.nih.gov/
National Library of Medicine - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/
Pillbox (Beta) - http://pillbox.nlm.nih.gov/
Science Roll - http://scienceroll.com/2010/03/24/pillbox-pill-identification-system/
HHS- http://www.hhs.gov/digitalstrategy/blog/2013/03/pillbox-opens-data-public.html
Youtube- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaAvBNI5qIk