The popularity of “the Pill” created a new market for pharmaceutical companies. For the first time, healthy women would be taking medication for an extended period of time. Pill manufacturers developed unique packaging in order to distinguish their product from those of their competitors and build brand loyalty. Packaging design often incorporated a “memory aid” to assist women in tracking their daily pill regimen, as well as styled cases to allow pills to be discreetly carried in bags and purses. The National Museum of American History’s Division of Medicine and Science’s collection of oral contraceptives illustrates some of the changes that the packaging and marketing of the Pill underwent from its inception in 1960 to the present.
David P. Wagner received his patent (number 3,143,207) for “medication dispensing means” on August 4, 1964. Wagner was prompted to invent the device when he and his wife had trouble remembering if she had taken her daily pill. The patent covered a variety of uses for a device that “aids the taking of a medication by an individual on an irregular schedule . . . readily synchronized with the menstrual cycle of the user . . . with an unmistakable visual indication as to whether the individual should take a pill . . . to dispense pills only one dose at a time . . . with the physical form of a novel device that can be reused indefinitely . . . in a case indistinguishable from a lady’s cosmetic ‘compact’ and adapted to be carried among the personal effects of a lady in a purse without giving a visible clew [sic] as to matters which are no concerns of others.” Wagner’s patent covered both a circular design and a rectangular calendar design. This object represents the rectangular calendar design. The patent addressed three big issues with the packaging of the Pill, discretion, compliance, and reusability. Wagner tried to sell his patent to Ortho and Searle and was originally rebuffed by both. Later, when Ortho introduced the DialPak, Wagner successfully defended his patent, and Ortho paid him $10,000 not to sue and a small fee for every DialPak produced afterwards.
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