Sunday January 19, 2020

No more Standing in Queues for Long Hours! Now South Africans to get Medicine from Vending Machines

Hutiri explains why he created the Pelebox

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vending machines
Inventor Neo Hutiri poses in front of one of his Peleboxes. (T. Khumalo/VOA)

An innovative system to dispense medicine to patients with chronic illnesses is taking off in South Africa. The award-winning “Pelebox,” created by South African engineer Neo Hutiri, is a computer-controlled vending machine stocked with prescription drugs, which patients access using a personal code.

The Pelebox has been hailed as a life saver for many, who use often-crowded South African hospitals and clinics. The medicine dispenser resembles the common automated teller machine and functions in a similar way. Hutiri explains why he created the Pelebox.

“If you have been to public clinics, one of the biggest challenges that you face is spending hours and hours to get access to your chronic medication. The idea was very simple: Can we create a technology, locally manufactured, locally born idea where we can get somebody to collect medication in a couple of seconds, instead of waiting for hours?” asked Hutiri.

Details of each patient are uploaded into a computer system connected to the machine. The patient must indicate the clinic or point where they want to get their medication. The machine consists of a simple wall of lockers controlled by a digital system. And Hutiri, who once had a chronic illness, explains the most exciting experience for patients.

vending machines, medicine
Jenifer Shingange, a patient with a chronic illness, says the Pelebox has been a god-sent for her (T. Khumalo/VOA)

“We take pre-packed medicine, we would scan the medicine, load it inside the unit. It then sends an SMS to a patient saying ‘Neo your medication is ready for collection, here is a one-time pin, please come and collect your medication at Winnie Mandela clinic.’ The patient simply walks to the unit. On that touch screen, enters their cell phone together with a pin. It pops open the door. They collect and they are on their way,” said Hutiri.

The technology, first introduced in 2016, has been a hit among patients. There are 11 Peleboxes already operational across the country. For years, 45-year-old Jenifer Shingange, a beneficiary of the technology, had to line up at dawn to collect her medication every month. She says since she started getting her drugs from the Peleboxes, she chooses a time that suits her, including after work.

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“I would like to say very thank you. Thank you so much. What is making me excited is that when I come here I don’t stand in a long queue. I just put my cellphone and pin and press and get my treatment,” said Shingange.

The Aurum Institute, a leading health care organization that has partnered with Hutiri, expects to introduce 10 more machines in the city of Ekurhuleni. Up to 26 machines will be functioning across the country by September. With each of the Peleboxes serving over 1,200 patients a month, authorities say they will go a long way toward shortening lines in hospitals and clinics. (VOA)

Next Story

This New Method Can Improve The Development of New Medicines

By dialling the parameters in this new mathematical model, researchers can quickly understand how these different binding configurations are affected

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Medicines
A New computational model will make research much more efficient and could accelerate the creation of new Medicines and therapies for many kinds of diseases. Pixabay

A new mathematical framework on molecular interactions will make it easier and more efficient for scientists to develop new medicines and other therapies for diseases such as cancer, HIV and autoimmune diseases, say reseachers.

The mathematical framework simulates the effects of the key parameters that control interactions between molecules that have multiple binding sites, as is the case for many medicines, the researchers said in a study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The researchers have planned to use this computational model to develop a web-based app that other researchers can use to speed the development of new therapies for diseases.

“The big advance with this study is that usually researchers use a trial-and-error experimental method in the lab for studying these kinds of molecular interactions, but here we developed a mathematical model where we know the parameters so we can make accurate predictions using a computer,” said Indian-origin researcher and study senior author Casim Sarkar from University of Minnesota in the US.

“This computational model will make research much more efficient and could accelerate the creation of new therapies for many kinds of diseases,” Sarkar added.

For the findings, the research team studied three main parameters of molecular interactions–binding strength of each site, rigidity of the linkages between the sites, and the size of the linkage arrays.

They looked at how these three parameters can be ‘dialled up’ or ‘dialled down’ to control how molecule chains with two or three binding sites interact with one another. The team then confirmed their model predictions in lab experiments. “At a fundamental level, many diseases can be traced to a molecule not binding correctly,” said study lead author Wesley Errington.

“By understanding how we can manipulate these ‘dials’ that control molecular behaviour, we have developed a new programming language that can be used to predict how molecules will bind,” Errington added.

Medicines
A new mathematical framework on molecular interactions will make it easier and more efficient for scientists to develop new medicines and other therapies for diseases such as cancer, HIV and autoimmune diseases, say reseachers. Pixabay

The need for a mathematical framework to decode this programming language is highlighted by the researchers’ finding that, even when the interacting molecule chains have just three binding sites each, there are a total of 78 unique binding configurations, most of which cannot be experimentally observed.

By dialling the parameters in this new mathematical model, researchers can quickly understand how these different binding configurations are affected, and tune them for a wide range of biological and medical applications. “We think we’ve hit on rules that are fundamental to all molecules, such as proteins, DNA, and medicines, and can be scaled up for more complex interactions,” said Errington.

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“It’s really a molecular signature that we can use to study and to engineer molecular systems. The sky is the limit with this approach,” Errington added. (IANS)