Many types of commonly-available vitamins and medicines are deadly if ingested in large quantities. Unfortunately, small children generally do not understand the concept of “LD50,” and may eat an excessive number of pills.
It also doesn’t help that many medications are candy-like in appearance (e.g. compare a coated Advil tablet to an M&M).
In order to reduce the chance of small children from eating medicine, medicines are often stored in bottles with so-called “child-proof” caps. These caps require some twisting / fiddling that makes them more difficult to open.
The problem here is that the caps are more difficult to open, but not impossible. (Technically, they are usually sold as “child-resistant” lids.)
We can solve this problem by making a pill bottle that has a much easier-to-open “decoy” compartment (Fig. 1). This decoy component would be filled with—crucially—non-deadly pills. So a child who was fumbling about with a medicine bottle and who was prone to eating that medicine would at least eat the non-deadly pills first.
The goal, of course, is to prevent this hypothetical child from dying at all, which suggests some additional possibilities:
- The “decoy” tablets could be coated with a bitter-tasting substance. This might discourage further exploratory pill-chomping.
- The capsules could contain some kind of vomit-inducing substance. This has its own downsides, but might “rescue” the situation in which a child was able to open both compartments and randomly eat pills from both.
- The lid could play a loud sound when it was opened, like those singing greeting cards that play a song when opened. This might make the pill-chomping situation known to any supervising adults before disaster could arise.
This seems like it could actually be a feasible product. You could buy some stock in medicine container manufacturing companies and then lobby your representatives to make this a mandatory feature of all medications!
PROS: Could actually be a practical product!
CONS: A “decoy” medication would probably occasionally be eaten by accident by an inattentive adult too. This could potentially cause more problems than this safety feature might solve, especially if we went with the “pill that induces vomiting” decoy.