Pill dispensers are devices that ensure people get only the meds they need when they need them.
Some pill dispensers offer audio or visual alerts when it is time for a person to take their meds. Others automatically dispense those meds in predetermined portions.
With more people taking prescription drugs than ever before, pill dispensers have become an integral part of medication safety protocols. Below are the best pill dispensers of 2020.
1. Se7en Day Weekly Pill Organizer
The Se7en Day Weekly Pill Organizer takes out top spot due to its simple effectiveness. It combines color-coding with the ability to divide meds up into morning, mid-day, and evening doses. And it’s a great choice for seniors on a tight budget.
What we like: What we love about this pill organizer is its combination of simplicity, affordability, and effectiveness. Not everyone needs or wants to take all their meds at once. The Se7en Organizer lets them break it up into manageable doses.
Flaws: Might need to practice opening it.
2. Sagely Smart XL Weekly Pill Organizer
The Sagely Smart XL Weekly Pill Organizer is a perfect combination of low and high tech. On the one hand, it’s a simple and effective weekly organizer. On the other hand, it comes with a smartphone app that reminds you when it’s time to take your meds.
What we like: The pillbox has unique push-through lids on the compartments that help ensure accurate distribution of meds. The smartphone app reminds you when it’s time for your meds. And the compartments feature easy opening for arthritis sufferers.
Flaws: The magnets holding the compartments in place could be a little stronger.
3. LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispenser
The LiveFine Automatic Pill Dispenser ensures you always get the right meds at the right time. It’s a locking, automatic dispenser that prevents accidental overdose and holds up to a month’s worth of meds at a time.
What we like: Set up to 6 daily alerts. The motorized carousel design presents you with the right pills at the right time and keeps everything else under lock and key. Each slot holds up to 18 pills. Alerts sound for up to 30 minutes.
Flaws: Make sure you have extra batteries on hand at all times.
4. New MedQ Daily Pill Box Reminder
For those who prefer a simple pill dispenser but still want an alert when it’s time to take your meds, there’s the New MedQ Daily Pill Box Reminder. It has 14 compartments for up to two weeks of meds, but it’s still small enough to take on the road.
What we like: This is a great looking, compact pill dispenser with a digital clock and both audio and visual alerts. The fact that the alert light flashes only on the appropriate compartment is a big plus. Great for home or road.
Flaws: Can take some patience to program.
5. GMS 7 Day Pill Organizer
Not everyone wants or needs a big automatic dispenser. For those who prefer simplicity and affordability, there’s the GMS 7 Day Pill Organizer. It’s no-frills safety and convenience at its best.
What we like: Each day of the week has four compartments because not everyone needs to take everything at once. Those compartments are easy to open and hold 8-10 pills each. Braille on the lids is ideal for the visually impaired.
Flaws: Would be nice if each day were a separate color.
6. e-Pill 4 Alarm Vibrating Pillbox
If you travel a lot for business or pleasure but need to stay on top of your meds, the e-Pill 4 Alarm Vibrating Pillbox is here for you. It lets you stay current with your meds no matter where you are and holds up to four days worth of pills at once.
What we like: If you travel on business, you can set the alerts to vibrate in order to maintain discretion. If you prefer the audio alert, you can set that too. The box is small enough to fit comfortably in any pocket.
Flaws: Requires some dexterity, so probably not the best if you suffer from arthritis.
7. Medca Pill Organizer
If you just need a simple but effective pill dispenser to take with you when you go away for the weekend, here it is. The Medca Pill Organizer slips into any pocket or purse, holds four days of meds, and closes up tight to keep everything safe and secure.
What we like: If you’re the type that gets out and about a lot, the Medca Pill Organizer is perfect for you. It is made of durable BPA-free plastic and holds upwards of 40 pills at a time. Use it for four days or split one day up into four doses.
Flaws: Mostly for taking with you when you go out. You may need something more involved for home use.
8. Med-E-Lert Automatic Pill Dispenser
If you or a loved one requires several different meds keeping everything straight can be a major chore. The Med-E-Lert Locking Automatic Pill Dispenser ensures no one gets more or less than they need at any given time. And keeps the rest safely locked away.
What we like: Holds up to four weeks’ worth of meds at once. Each compartment holds up to 18 pills. Cover locks to prevent accidental overdose. Alerts are clear, effective, and easy to set.
Flaws: The lock isn’t exactly robust.
9. MedCenter 31 Day Pill Organizer
Keeping a month’s worth of meds straight is no easy task, unless you have the MedCenter 31 Day Pill Organizer. The multi-tier system makes it much easier to distinguish between days than a flat dispenser would.
What we like: A good choice for someone who is not memory-impaired but nonetheless needs several different meds each day. Alerts are easy to set, and the big digital display leaves no doubt which compartment is in play that day.
Flaws: Not portable.
10. Ezy Dose 7-day Pill Organizer
For the last of our best pill dispensers, we return to the land of the simple. The Ezy Dose 7-Day Pill Organizer is handy and effective and perfect to keep on the nightstand or take with you on vacation.
What we like: The push button opening mechanism on the lid is ideal for those with arthritis. Each compartment holds up to 30 pills. The BPA-free plastic is tough and won’t warp in the heat. Easy to clean and carry.
Flaws: No alarms, so it’s up to you to remember to take your meds.
Who Needs a Pill Dispenser?
Americans are taking more prescription medications than ever before (1). The phenomenon is even more pronounced in senior Americans (2) who, on average, take four or five prescription meds per day. In such an environment, where prescription drugs are becoming commonplace, it’s vitally important that those medications are taken exactly as directed in order to prevent accidental overdose or adverse interactions.
Pill dispensers are the easiest and best way to maintain control over your medication regime. They help you make sure your meds are working for you and not against you. Pill dispensers bring order to the process of getting well or staying well. Locking pill dispensers also ensure that children do not accidentally ingest adult meds and wind up in the hospital. In addition, pill dispensers are used by people who are not sick to dispense dietary supplements.
How We Ranked
When it comes to pill dispensers, the primary considerations are convenience and safety. A pill dispenser has to make a person’s life easier. So any dispenser that would be hard to open for the average senior citizen did not make our list.
A pill dispenser should also have compartments or slots that are clearly marked with the days of the week. If the dispenser breaks things down into morning, afternoon, and evening doses, then that too must be clearly indicated on each compartment so there is no confusion.
With dispensers that provide some type of alert, we wanted that alert system to be easy to program with a clear, distinctive alarm signal that can’t be missed or confused for something else. For hearing-impaired people, any light-centric alert system had to be bright enough to be seen easily from across a good-sized room.
Automatic pill dispensers often have a built-in alert system. And the same characteristics we just described also apply to them. Automatic dispensers must also dispense meds in a convenient fashion that doesn’t require the user to jump through any hoops to get their meds.
In addition, an automatic dispenser should provide some type of lock to secure the meds from curious kids or pets, and to prevent forgetful folks from being able to take multiple doses by accident.
Finally, price was not a major consideration since many good pill dispensers cost less than $50. And some cost less than $10.
Pill dispensers ensure you get what you need when you need it. The proliferation of prescription meds has created a situation where many people lose track of what they’re supposed to take and when. The pill dispenser alleviates that problem and ensures that the medication you’re taking will have a chance to produce optimal results.
Some pill dispensers have reminder alarms. Pill dispensers have been around for some time. But for most of their history, they were simple boxes with days of the week printed on them. Today, they’ve embraced high-tech and are available with a variety of helpful features, including the reminder alarm. The reminder alarm goes off when it’s time to take your medicine, ensuring you don’t miss a dose and that you always take your meds at the right time.
Pill dispensers are easier to use than bottles. Sometimes so-called ‘childproof’ bottles also wind up being ‘adult proof’ as well. This is especially true for those seniors suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Pill dispensers are typically much easier to open than a prescription bottle. Some automatic dispensers even open on their own and dispense the medication directly into your hand.
Automatic pill dispensers prevent accidental overdose. Manual pill dispensers are just fine most of the time. However, if a person gets confused about what day it is, they could over-medicate themselves. Automatic pill dispensers prevent that from happening. They dispense only the appropriate meds for that day and keep the rest locked away, preventing unintentional overdose (3).
Many pill dispensers are portable. Some pill dispensers are designed to be set up on a table or nightstand. Others, however, are small and sleek enough to fit into a pocket or purse. These are great for folks who enjoy an active lifestyle. In fact, a lot of folks have a tabletop dispenser for the house and a portable dispenser that they use when they go shopping or go out to visit family and friends.
Pill dispensers take the guesswork out of medication. According to the AARP, the average American 45 or older takes four different prescription drugs every day (4). That’s a pretty incredible statistic for several reasons. But it also points to the urgent need most older folks have to keep everything straight when it comes to their meds. A good pill dispenser can take the guesswork out of the medication process and make sure it’s safe and effective.
Pill dispensers remove a major source of stress. Trying to keep track of things when you’ve been prescribed four or five different medications can be extremely stressful. Being constantly stressed out erodes quality of life, especially for older folks, who experience stress differently than young people (5). Using a pill dispenser to keep your meds straight can go a long way toward eliminating a major potential cause of stress.
Pill dispensers help loved ones sleep easier. When an elderly parent requires regular medication, it can be stressful for their children as well. They don’t always have the time to check on their parents to make sure they’ve taken their meds, and taken them in the correct dosage. Pill dispensers, especially automatic dispensers that offer sound or light-driven alerts, can help the loved ones of an elderly person rest easier.
Pill dispensers can be simple or high-tech. If a person’s memory, sight, and hearing are all in fine condition, there is no need for alarms and flashing lights. A simple dispenser with the days of the week indicated on the slots should be all you need. (Unless there are kids in the house. In that case, you should use a locking dispenser.) On the other hand, if a person needs those helpful alerts, there are plenty of pill dispensers today that offer them.
Pill dispensers are affordable. Considering the prevalence and dangers of adverse drug interactions (6) and the very real possibility of overdosing, pill dispensers are an outstanding value. You can get a simple one for less than 10 dollars or a deluxe automatic dispenser with all the bells and whistles for less than 100 dollars. Even for the most expensive ones, it typically works out to pennies per day on average. That’s a small price to pay for safety.
Pill dispensers prevent drug interactions. If a person has lost track of what pills they’ve recently taken, it increases the risk of adverse drug interactions. Pill dispensers ensure you only take what you need, thereby preventing interactions that could endanger your health or neutralize the effectiveness of your medications.
Pill dispensers are not just for seniors. Most of the people who use pill dispensers are senior citizens. Most, not all. There are millions of people under 65 who also need to take medication for various acute or chronic conditions (7). And while they may not have impaired memory like many older folks, they often have busy lives that make it easy for them to forget things like taking their meds. Pill dispensers can help.
Pill dispensers simplify the process of taking meds. Juggling several bottles of medication, trying to remember how much of which ones you’ve taken can be a challenge. Especially if you’re not feeling well. It’s easy to get confused, overlook things, or take multiple doses of the same meds. Pill dispensers simplify the process by letting you set up everything in advance.
Pill dispensers help seniors retain their independence. All too often, seniors wind up in assisted living facilities or nursing homes because of errors they made in administering medications to themselves (8). If given the opportunity, most would choose to remain independent. Pill dispensers greatly reduce the chances of adverse drug interactions and help seniors retain their independence.
Pill dispensers can alert you when you’re running low. Sometimes a person is not aware they’re running low on a particular medication. Then they open the bottle one day to take their medication and find the bottle empty. With a pill dispenser, that shouldn’t happen. You will notice that you only have enough of a particular medication to fill four or five (or however many) compartments, and you can order a refill before you run out.
Pill dispensers make life easier for caregivers. Whether you are a professional or family member looking after an aging relative, the caregiver’s job seems to get more complicated with each passing year. One of the reasons is that older folks today are taking more medication than ever before (9). Keeping everything straight is an enormous responsibility and can be very stressful. Pill dispensers make the caregiver’s job much easier.
Pill dispensers are essential for those with impaired memory. It is estimated that up to 16 million seniors in America suffer from some degree of memory loss (10). But just like everyone else these people often wind up needing various medications to deal with other health problems. Left to their own devices, it’s likely that their impaired memory will result in a medication problem at some point. Unless they have a pill dispenser.
Automatic pill dispensers keep meds away from kids. Approximately 60,000 children a year in the US accidentally ingest adult medications and wind up in the hospital (11). Most automatic dispensers come with locks that ensure no one can access the meds by mistake. Remember: kids are curious, meds are dangerous, and anyone at any age can forget to put away a pill bottle. Keep meds out of reach of kids by using a locking pill dispenser.
Pill dispensers can help the hearing impaired. Audible alarms are great, but they don’t do much for the hearing impaired. Fortunately, there are also numerous pill dispensers that provide a visible alert in the form of a flashing light that indicates it’s time for the person to take their meds. If you or the person you are buying the dispenser for is hearing-impaired, make sure you get a dispenser with some type of visual alert system.
Pill dispensers help improve quality of life. The bottom line with pill dispensers is that they help to improve the quality of life for all concerned (12). They help ensure the people who need meds get them on time and in the proper dose. They make life easier on caregivers, they reduce stress on family members, and they help seniors maintain their independence longer. In many ways, they’re like the humble Stop sign in that they’re simple, effective, and they save lives.
Q: What is a pill dispenser?
A: A pill dispenser is a device that allows the user to separate their medications into individual – typically daily – doses. The dispenser has separate slots that are marked with the days of the week. The user places all the meds they need to take on a given day into the appropriate slot, and then takes them when that day arrives. Some dispensers only hold a couple of days worth of pills. Others can hold an entire month’s worth. Which one a person chooses will depend on their medication regime.
Q: What is an automatic pill dispenser?
A: An automatic pill dispenser uses most of the same design principles as the standard pill dispenser. The difference is that it automatically dispenses one day’s worth of meds at a time. The rest of the medication is kept locked away. Most also alert the user when it’s time to take their meds. That way, it virtually eliminates the chance of forgetting to take meds, mistakenly taking duplicate meds, or taking more than one day’s worth of meds at a time.
Q: Do I need a prescription to buy a pill dispenser?
A: You do not need a prescription to buy a pill dispenser. You will likely need a prescription or prescriptions to obtain the meds you need to dispense, but the pill dispenser itself is available to anyone that wants one.
Q: What are the different types of pill dispensers?
A: Pill dispensers are broken down into three basic categories. The first is the standard pill organizer. This enables a person to divide their meds up into single-day doses, with the days of the week indicated on the top of each slot or compartment. A step up from the basic dispenser is one with an alarm. Pills are organized in the same way as the basic dispenser, but there is a built-in alarm that signals when it’s time to take your meds. The third type is the automatic dispenser that doles out one day’s worth of meds at a time, with the rest of the meds locked away. These usually have alarms too. And they can often be linked to smartphone apps.
Q: Why do people use pill dispensers?
A: People use pill dispensers because prescription medicines are not candy. Taking too much or too little, or taking the wrong combination of meds can have devastating, often life-threatening implications. And this is true whether you are 18 or 80. Many older individuals suffer from age-related memory decline (13). The pill dispenser helps to ensure that their impairment does not result in tragedy.
Q: Are pill dispensers just for senior citizens?
A: No. Young people recovering from illness or surgery or who suffer from various chronic conditions that require regular medications can also benefit from a pill dispenser. Many teens and young adults have a sense of invulnerability. This can cause them to have a cavalier attitude when it comes to taking medications (14). A pill dispenser, especially one with a corresponding smartphone app, can help ensure they stay on track with their meds.
Q: Which is the best type of pill dispenser?
A: The best type of pill dispenser for one person will not necessarily be the best for someone else. For some, a standard pill dispenser will be more than enough. Others may need one with an alarm of some sort. If they are hearing-impaired, that typically means flashing lights. Otherwise, it might mean a dispenser with a beeping alarm or something similar. Still others might need an automatic dispenser to ensure they don’t accidentally overdose.
Q: Do pill dispensers require batteries?
A: Dispenser with alarms and automatic pill dispensers may require batteries to work. Or they may plug into a wall outlet. Or they may plug into the wall but have a battery backup system in case the power goes out. If you are buying an automatic dispenser or a dispenser with an alarm, make sure to read the fine print and see what, if any, batteries it takes.
Q: Can a pill dispenser hold liquid medicines?
A: Any type of liquid medication will need to be stored outside the pill dispenser. And that is true no matter what type of pill dispenser you have. They’re designed to hold dry capsules or tablets, not liquids. That said, some of the more advanced automatic dispensers will provide smartphone apps that will allow you to program in reminders for taking meds that cannot be stored in the dispenser.
Q: Are pill dispensers portable?
A: Some pill dispensers are small enough to slip easily into a shirt pocket or purse. A pill dispenser that holds a week’s worth of medication will easily slip into most purses as well. If you have a day trip or a vacation coming up, you may want to buy a compact pill dispenser to take with you. It’s easier than trying to cart around your tabletop dispenser.
Q: Can I take a pill dispenser on a plane?
A: TSA allows people to take medication in pill form on a plane (15). In fact, they encourage people who need prescription meds to keep them in their carry-on bag in case they need them during the flight. They are stricter when it comes to liquid meds. And in a few states, all meds (including pills) must be clearly labeled at all times. Make sure carrying unlabeled meds in a dispenser is allowed in your state before heading to the airport.
Q: Can I use a pill dispenser for dietary supplements?
A: Sure. Many people use pill dispensers for nothing but supplements. It’s a handy way for them to remember to take their vitamins or whatever other supplements they’re taking. You can also mix your dietary supplements in with your prescription meds in the dispenser to make sure you don’t forget to take either.
Q: What are pill dispensers made of?
A: Most are made of high-quality plastic that doesn’t easily break or warp or discolor over time. Some may have electrical components with wiring and metal contacts for batteries. But, unless there is an alert or a clock or some other electrical device involved, the entire dispenser will be fabricated from plastic.
Q: Will medication go bad sitting in a pill dispenser for a long time?
A: The biggest pill dispensers may hold up to a month’s worth of meds. This, by itself, is not usually a problem. However, if you are going to use a long-term dispenser, you would be well advised to get one that is moisture resistant. You should also check the expiration date on your meds before loading a month’s worth of meds into a dispenser. And you should make sure you don’t store the dispenser in direct sunlight as heat can affect medications (16).
Q: How much does a pill dispenser cost?
A: A simple, reliable pill dispenser like our #1 choice costs less than $10. At the other end of the spectrum, an automatic dispenser with alerts and a smartphone app may cost as much as $100. Some will even cost a bit more than that. But rest assured, there are a lot of high-quality pill dispensers with alerts available for $50 or less. And when you consider how much they enhance safety and convenience, that’s actually a great value.
Q: Is it hard to program an automatic pill dispenser?
A: In most cases, no. The only pill dispensers that will need programming will be those with alert systems and/or those that sync to a smartphone app. For dispensers with simple alert systems, programming them is typically no more difficult than setting an alarm clock. Because that is exactly what you’re doing. Dispensers that link to smartphone apps will usually come with directions that take you through the entire process.
Q: Do automatic pill dispensers require maintenance?
A: A pill dispenser will not require any particular type of maintenance, other than making sure it doesn’t get banged around. In the case of dispensers with an electrical component, just make sure you don’t get the dispenser wet. But that should always be the case with anything holding medication.
A pill dispenser is a device that enables a person to divide their medications up into daily doses. In that way, they ensure they take only what they need when they need it.
Many pill dispensers are simple plastic devices that contain slots with the days of the week indicated on each slot. Some can hold up to a month’s worth of meds. Others offer audio or visual alerts that signal the person it is time to take their meds.
Automatic dispensers keep the bulk of the medicine locked away and automatically dispense one day’s worth of meds at a time. These dispensers often sync with a smartphone app.
In our highly medicated world, pill dispensers are more important than ever to ensure everyone’s safety and health. Use the above information to determine which pill dispenser is right for you.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended pill dispenser, click here.