FDA launches naloxone app competition to combat opioid overdose deaths

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FDA launches naloxone app competition to combat opioid overdose deaths

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched the 2016 Naloxone App Competition as an innovative strategy to fight opioid overdose, in a quest to find new ways to educate the U.S. public, the FDA is turning to software developers.

Opioid overdose deaths have been drastically increasing in the country. Naloxone is used to treat narcotic overdoses in emergency situations. The FDA has taken steps to combat these scenarios, such as encouraging the development of abuse-deterrent opioids and providing opioid abuse screening questions for clinicians. Next up in the campaign is creating a mobile phone application.

FDA, with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is calling on computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers and others to develop a mobile phone application that can connect opioid users experiencing an overdose with nearby carriers of naloxone.

The number of deaths due to opioid overdoses including drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine, as well as illicit opioids like heroin, have more than tripled since 1999. The FDA announcement says that many of these deaths could have been avoided if naloxone was administered immediately which is why this competition was created.

According to Robert M. Califf, M.D, FDA Commissioner, “With a dramatic increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., there’s a vital need to harness the power of new technologies to quickly and effectively link individuals experiencing an overdose – or a bystander such as a friend or family member – with someone who carries and can administer the life-saving medication." He added, “Through this competition, we are tapping public health-focused innovators to help bring technological solutions to a real-world problem that is costing the U.S. thousands of lives each year.”

Naloxone is currently only available in the U.S. by prescription, but many states have taken steps to make it more readily accessible to first responders, community-based organizations and laypersons, including friends and family of opioid users. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, naloxone accessibility nearly tripled between 2010 and 2014, but individuals and their loved ones may not always have the life-saving drug on hand or know where to get it in the event of an overdose.

Peter Lurie, M.D., M.P.H., associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis at the FDA, quoted, “The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility." “Mobile phone applications have been developed to educate laypersons on how to recognize an overdose and administer naloxone, and to connect bystanders with individuals in need of other medical services, such as CPR. To date, however, no application is available to connect carriers of naloxone with nearby opioid overdose victims.”

With a first prize of $40,000, the competition asks computer programmers to build a mobile app to connect those who overdose on opioids with carriers of naloxone. The FDA project is being launched in collaboration with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Naloxone App Competition was developed under the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010, which grants all federal agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems and advance their core missions.

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