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Pill Protect QuickFire Challenge: Innovating to Protect Kids this World Children’s Day and Beyond


Every hour in the United States, five children under the age of six are rushed to the emergency department for medication exposures, many due to unsafe storage practices. With a growing rate of prescribed medicines over the past two decades, an aging population and drastic increase in three-generation households, and in some instances a lack of practical child-resistant storage solutions, approximately 50,000 young children are brought to the emergency room each year because they got into medicines that were left within reach. The problem is global, afflicting low- and high-income countries alike.

Today we celebrate World Children’s Day, which has been celebrated on November 20th every year since 1954 to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare. Protecting children includes ensuring access to education, working to end child poverty, increasing access to clean water and sanitation. Just as important, to protect and help children thrive we also need to help ensure they have access to health care and keep them safe from accidental unsupervised ingestions of chemicals, household products and medicines not appropriately kept out of their reach.

The COVID-19 pandemic may magnify the problem. With remote school, many kids are spending more time in the home and parents and other caregivers must split their attention between work, childcare and maintaining the household. Keeping children safe at home – especially through safe storage of medication – is more urgent now than ever.

To inspire innovators to address this priority, Johnson & Johnson Innovation introduced the Pill Protect QuickFire Challenge: Designing for Medication Safety, together with Johnson & Johnson’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) and Scientific Education and Patient Advocacy (SEPA), in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PROTECT Initiative. We invite visionaries to submit ideas aiming to prevent or reduce accidental access by children of medications in pill minders, pill organizers or pill dispensers.

The innovator(s) with the best idea, potential technology, or potential solution will receive up to $100,000 in grant funding, access to the global JLABS network and mentorship from experts at the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.

For over 130 years, part of the DNA of Johnson & Johnson has been a steadfast commitment to the safety and well-being of children, including the prevention of medication errors and accidental unsupervised ingestion. We have worked with the public and private sectors to add child protective packaging and flow restrictors on medications, such as Children’s and Infants’ TYLENOL®, and worked across the US industry to move to single concentration of pediatric liquid acetaminophen to eliminate medication errors. And we, and others, have tracked, with the use of data, the positive impact these efforts have had on reducing children’s accidental unsupervised ingestions. We remain committed to continue improving medical innovation with the aim to help keep kids safe.

While the industry has made progress on medication packaging over the decades, pill organizer and pill minder consumer products often fall short when it comes to safety. We conducted an analysis of dozens of pill minder products on the market, and found that most are not designated as child-resistant and do not include important safety information to prevent harm to children.

This World Children’s Day, I hope you are inspired to share with your networks this exciting opportunity to help keep children safe today and tomorrow.