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Invention of the Safety Cap

ca 1943-46
First flavored children's aspirin is produced.

1940s-1950s
Aspirin poisoning constitutes 25 percent of all poisonings in children.

1950s
Arena leads push for drug companies to develop the childproof safety cap.

"The adoption of such a closure could mean a saving of many small children's lives from the accidental ingestion of drugs . . . ." --Arena, 1957, letter to fellow physicians.

In the mid-1940s, manufacturers of children's aspirin began to add flavoring so that sick children would take it readily. An unexpected consequence of this action, however, was that children were more likely to simply eat the medicine during unsupervised moments, as if it were candy. Dr. Jay Arena, pediatrician at Duke Hospital, was already focusing his professional career on the prevention of poisoning in children, particularly from household items. Disturbed by the number of patients who came to the hospital sick or dying from overdoses of "candy aspirin," he called Plough, Inc, makers of St. Joseph's Aspirin. Dr. Arena spoke to Mr. Abe Plough, the company's president, to implore action. Over the phone, Dr. Arena suggested that Mr. Plough manufacture a special new top for his product that parents could open but that children could not. The idea for the childproof safety cap was born.

The St. Joseph's Company undertook the creation of such a device and enlisted Dr. Arena to help test design variations before the product went to market. The St. Joseph's Company, the Homemaker's Guild, Dr. Arena, and other physicians nationwide began to study the efficacy of the new safety cap. Both children and their parents were tested. The resulting survey was published in the Journal of American Medical Association, and thanks to the results of the survey, St. Joseph's aspirin became the first to sell any product in a container with a safety cap.

Dr. Arena would later work closely with Mr. Plough on other ways of reducing hazards for children, such as decreasing the dosage in children's aspirin tablets.


Dr. Jay Arena with Medicine bottles


Portion of an advertising insert in a St. Joseph's Aspirin bottle announcing the advent of a new form of safety cap and appropriate dosage for children, n.d.

Listen to Dr. Arena speak about the invention of the safety cap

1959
Results of safety cap closure survey published in The Journal of the Amercian Medical Association.

1967
Arena appointed by FDA to serve on Committee to Develop Standards for Safety Closures.

Arena & LyeSafety CapsResidencyCreation of PCCDr. Osterhout & Daily LifeAdvocacy, Education
& Outreach
BibliographyHome

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