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Upstate hopes to expand locking vials program to combat accidental overdoses

Prescription drug bottles that have numbered dials to use as a lock sit displayed on a table.
Upstate Medical
Upstate Medical
Prescription drug bottles designed to prevent accidental overdoses include numbered dials that can be set to a code to keep medications secure.

Upstate Medical Hospital is looking to expand its new locking vials program that's designed to reduce the risk of an accidental overdose. The hospital earlier this month began using the secure containers for controlled substances prescribed to pediatric patients discharged from the facility. A spokesperson said the hospital aims to expand this to other controlled substance prescriptions in early 2023.

Each year, the Poison Center at Upstate Medical receives roughly 17,000 calls regarding accidental overdoses in children that gain access to medications in their homes.

Jeanna Marraffa, the assistant clinical director at the Poison Center, says the new vials that require a code before opening will now be the standard for select medications prescribed to young children.

“Any prescription that's a controlled substance to a child, they're automatically just dispensing it in a in this Safe RX Vial," Marraffa said, referring to the formal name of the container.

The distribution of these vials is part of a pilot program launched by the hospital. Upstate Medical Spokesperson Darryl Geddes said the hospital is looking to broaden the program's impact within the next couple of months.

"The next step in the program is to provide these vials for all walk-in control substance orders—this allows the outpatient team to provide the counseling on the vials, the goal is to do this by February," Geddes said Friday in an email.

While the vials add an extra layer of protection for kids, Marraffa said all medications should still be stored safely and out of a child's reach.

“A couple of groups of drugs that we're always worried about, especially in small children, where one pill or a small amount is enough to result in significant poisoning and even death. Opioids, that's a large, you know, a large group of medications that can be quite dangerous to children. Blood pressure medicines, that's another large group of medicines," Marraffa said.

The program also aims to prevent adults from misusing any pediatric medications that come in the vials.

Isabel Flores is a graduate student studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May of 2023. As a multimedia reporter, she helps to present as well as produce audio and digital content for WAER. In her free time, Isabel enjoys working out and listening to all genres of music.