Pharmacies in Northern California have started to stock talking prescription bottles which aim to help elderly or partially sighted patients by reading out label information at the touch of a button.

The bottles, which go by the name ‘Rex’, contain a voice chip, battery and a speaker. When dispensing, the pharmacist inserts the bottle into the recording dock, which connects with the pharmacy software and translates the label information using text-to-speech technology. While the label is printed, the recording is uploaded, and patients can hear it by pushing a button on the base.

Talking pill bottleThe information recorded in the bottle can include what the drug is for, how regular the dosage is, whether refills are available and the contact number of the pharmacist or the GP.

The technology will be available in 140 Kaiser Permanente pharmacies and healthcare facilities.

Gene Franz, general manager of solutions and channels for manufacturers MedivoxRx, said: "We are very excited to help Kaiser Permanente provide their members with this kind of service.

"It is commendable of Kaiser to recognise that everyone is entitled to equal access to prescription information, while helping to make certain that every patient can achieve the best outcome by taking their medications properly."

Pharmacists also have the option of directly adding their own voice recording to the label. The unit can be kept in the fridge without damage and is disposable.

MedivoxRx says that the Rex bottles are ideal for those who are visually impaired and the eldery, and helps compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing easy access to dosage instructions and other critical information.

The company cites studies by the US Department of Health and Human Services that say that fewer than 30% of older adults take their medication accurately and that mediation errors are the fourth leading cause of death in the country.

The product is available in Starter and Refill kits, which allows only direct recording into a bottle, or the Pharmacy Technology system, which interfaces with the pharmacist’s dispensing software and contains the text-to-speech element.