Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Daily Dose of Creativity

We have all felt the frustration of a Child-Lock in a car door, a baby gate atop the stairs, or a child-proof prescription pill bottle. It is easy to take these public safety inventions for granted when they inconvenience our own activities, but the origins of Child-Proof medicine containers come from a major public health issue that endangered hundreds of thousands of children every year. Advocay and outreach with mothers and fathers was not working, though nonprofit money and resources were given to public education on the issue.

In the 1960s more than 100 children lost their lives to accidental pill ingestion. Children were hospitalized for being poisoned by prescription drugs roughly 100,000 times every year and only survived after a painful and traumatic stomach pumping technique. This was a nearly weekly occurrence for the Pediatric M.D. Dr. Henri Breault in Ontario, Canada. His wife recalls him coming home from work early in the morning and exclaiming that he would solve this issue.

This fits with the Problem-Solving creativity model of Sawyer’s research. Dr. Breault found his problem quickly, as it was one frequently troubling him in his field of work. Despite development delays and unsuccessful prototypes, in 1967 Dr. Breault collaborated with the ITL Industries President, Mr. Peter Hedgewick, to develop the final product. Soon after the locked lid was made mandatory in Canada and then the United States. 

The caps were a success, dropping accidental poisonings by 91%. The “Palm N Turn” was a sensational life saver in North America that inspired more safety measures for prescription drugs. The FDA and AMA passed regulations and Congress passed a Poison Prevention Packaging Act which applied to both medication and cleaning chemicals. This is an incredible example of creativity solving problems through collaboration and emotional investment. 


  1. I think this is really interesting because it's a product of creativity that you really wouldn't think twice about nowadays, but in many ways essential to prevent accidental pill ingestion, and it's clearly working because accidental pill ingestion is not a prevalent public health issue today. I think it's really interesting that his motivation to creatively solve this problem seemed to be intrinsic--because he saw this every week in work, he found the need to fix it.

  2. Clearly Breault was successful in solving this problem, because nowadays we don't even think twice about having child locks on pill bottles: that's just the way things are! I like that you included that Breault's creative process was inspired by a desire to solve a widespread problem. Sometimes, the solutions are simple. We just have to think of them! I would be interested to learn about how he collaborated more with the pharmaceutical industry in developing the product and how long it took, as well as challenges he faced along the way.

  3. While I do believe that this invention was/is necessary and creative, the medicine bottle cap has grabbed my attention in the past month in another direction. While in the Walgreens medicine aisle over a week ago, a bottle of Aleve caught my attention because of a claim on the cap: “soft grip arthritis cap” in white letters on a red background. The cap on the bottle was red, soft, and the opening instructions was simply to squeeze gently on two sides. I haven’t given much thought to caps before, besides the realization of the necessity for children safety seals. However, I’ve become aware that a growing percentage of patients are facing challenges with opening these bottles.

    Another case where I read about issues with opening the safety lock was a post by a commenter (SA Miller) on a “Bring ClearRx back to Target” Petition (a product which another student did a blogpost on previously). Miller wrote, “I have osteoporosis and feel like I could break a wrist bone trying to open a CVS cap. If I wake at night and have minimal strength, I can't get the cap off to take my migraine medicine. By the time I'm able to exert enough effort to open the cap, I'm fully awake and can't get back to sleep. I have a young child and need safety caps. The double pinch ClearRx cap that CVS acquired the right to use are easier to open” (

    So lately, it seems there is a call for balance – caps that are child safe, but that are still easy enough to open for patients with weakened strength.

    Thanks for sharing!


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