BUIES CREEK - One of the nation’s brightest young pharmacists presented the nation’s only FDA-approved medication distribution device to Campbell Pharmacy students this week.
Dr. Traci Brooks from the Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg spoke to Professor Bob Cisneros’ students in their class on medical errors and patient safety and brought with her EMMA, a take-home machine that she said has been useful in helping military patients, specifically those with traumatic head injuries, remember their medications and proper dosages. EMMA, which stands for Electronic Medication Management Assistant, was approved for use in 2007 and is currently in use by three soldiers at Bragg and several other patients throughout the country.
“Wounded warriors, in particular, are often not sure of when they last took their medication or if they’re taking multiple medications, what comes next,” Brooks said. “This machine reminds them of the times, produces the correct capsules and makes the process easier for them.”
According to recent figures provided by the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., medication errors injure 1.5 million people annually and lead to billions in annual costs. Brooks said she deals with many patients who’ve suffered head injuries and therefore, can’t always remember their proper medication.
EMMA, she said, is programmed by a patient’s health care provider to dispense individual doses of up to 10 different drugs for up to a months’ supply. The prescriptions are prepared in blister cards dispensed by a pharmacy to the patient, and the cards are then loaded into EMMA.
Brooks personally monitors her patients’ machines online and has more control over patients who are considered high risk to overdose. When problems arise or if EMMA relays to Brooks that improper dosages were taken, she can contact her patient or her patient’s family to correct the problem or to warn of an overdose.
“Patients can make mistakes, too,” said Cisneros, who showed his class four different pill bottles, all white and generic and all containing drugs with similar names but very different purposes.
Brooks, who this year was named one three finalists for “Patient Care Provider of the Year” at the Next Generation Pharmacists Awards in Boston, was a guest of Col. Bill Pickard, chairman of clinical research for Campbell’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Pickard said EMMA, which is still relatively new on the market, has the potential to help many patients down the line.
“I’ve seen spouses quit their jobs to take care of those who aren’t capable of taking proper medication,” Pickard said. “But EMMA has literally changed some of these families’ lives.”
The machine, which Brooks said costs a patient approximately $6,000, was brought up before Congress in March by Secretary of the Army John McHugh, who suggested tighter government oversight of the Army’s prescription drug program and in the process, championed EMMA’s results for patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Story and Photo: by Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications
Photo: Dr. Traci Brooks of the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg demonstrates EMMA, the only FDA-approved take-home pill distribution machine on the market, to Pharmacy students at Campbell University on Sept. 6.