Launched by the İzmir-based Association for the Visually Impaired (ÇGD) in collaboration with the local Environmentalist Pharmacists Cooperation, an innovative project three years in the making will potentially change the way visually impaired patients fill their prescriptions and how they follow dosage instructions given to them by their doctors.
The "Accessible Drug" project is developing state-of-the-art packaging with audio capabilities which will allow visually impaired patients to properly identify medications and follow dosage instructions that local pharmacists record verbally on the packaging.
The packaging has already been used in selected pharmacies over the past three years and will soon be introduced to patients across Turkey with the support of governmental agencies.
The "Accessible Drug" project incorporates the current numerical labeling system in Braille and will incorporate custom-made audio boxes which are also encoded with the prescription information. The technology will allow visually impaired patients to follow their prescription-taking regimen at home without assistance. Initiated in 2013, this project has already benefited hundreds of people in the preliminary phase and is expected to impact the lives of millions of patients around Turkey.
ÇGD President Ufuk Özen said that association members who have used the audio boxes are very happy with the product, saying, "The project's aim is to make this product available to patients all over Turkey under the oversight of the Ministry of Health and the Social Security Institution. The project has been a success in İzmir so far, however, it should not be only limited to İzmir.
Pharmacist Barış Özgen, who has contributed immensely to the project as a volunteer, says it is crucial to encourage the visually impaired to maintain proper health and offers the disabled a way to be more independent from their caregivers. "In general, visually impaired patients tend not to complete the course of their antibiotics or other medications and do not know when their medications expire. When a caregiver is present, they take their medications but when they are alone, they cannot do so. This project acknowledges this concern as a public health issue. Therefore, our goal is for the project to be approved by the Social Security Institution and covered by insurance, allowing this technology to be introduced to the entire country."
Özgen further said that visually impaired people can easily confuse blood pressure medications with allergy medicines, saying: "One of our patients recognized the medicine according to the size and shape of the packaging. However, one day, he confused his blood pressure medicine with his allergy medicine because the packages of the two medicines are in the same size. He used the allergy medicine every day instead of the blood pressure medicine and came to our pharmacy to say that the medication was not working and his blood pressure had skyrocketed. When we asked which medicine he used, he showed us the allergy medicine. This project eliminates these such problems."
Ferhant Dönmez, 59, who was born blind, said that he tried to recognize medications by their sizes before but now he does not have a hard time finding the right medicine and saves a lot of time.