FDA Approves Computerized Pill Box

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A computerized pill box that patients can keep at home to dole out their drugs on schedule and in the correct doses received U.S. government approval Thursday.

The Electronic Medication Management Assistant -- EMMA -- is for home use but only under the supervision of a health-care provider, the Food and Drug Administration said.

The device can be programmed to dispense individual doses of up to a month's worth of 10 different drugs, according to its manufacturer, INRange Systems Inc. The Web-connected medication box allows pharmacists, doctors and nurses to tweak both the dosing schedules and dosages of drugs loaded into the device in special blister cards. The company-described "electronic nurse" alerts patients when it is time to take a drug with visual and audible alerts.

The bread box-sized device may reduce drug identification and dosing errors, the FDA said. Expected users include aging and forgetful patients, as well as those with HIV who must adhere to complex treatment regimens.

The company said EMMA would be available in early 2008. Company officials did not immediately return a message seeking its expected cost.