Opioid Overdose Deaths Targeted By FDA Technology Competition

Federal regulators are trying to use a competition to spur technology developers to create an app that helps people experiencing an opioid overdose get access to nearby life saving medication. 

The 2016 Naloxone App Competition was announced by the FDA on September 19, indicating that the winner will be awarded $40,000, as part of an effort to encourage new technologies that will reduce the risk of narcotic painkiller overdoses.

The contest is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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“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,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, said in a press release. “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.”

In recent years, the opioid overdose epidemic has worsened, affecting more than 2 million Americans who abused or were dependent on prescription narcotic painkillers in 2014 alone. Opioid overdoses increased 137 percent from 2000 to 2015, reaching an all time high in the U.S.

Naloxone is a drug used to counteract opioid overdose, saving many lives that would be lost from accidental overdose.It is currently available by prescription and many states have taken steps to make the drug available to first responders, as well as family and friends of opioid users.

The number of people given naloxone tripled from 2010 to 2014, according to the CDC. However many of the people who are carrying naloxone are not opioid users, they are simply a concerned family member or friend and won’t be present when an overdose happens.

In 2014, approximately 28,000 people died from opioid overdoses. According to a study published in 2015, while opioid abuse was on the decline, more people are dying from narcotic painkiller overdoses than ever before. Some health experts say many could have been saved if users received naloxone to stop or reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

Opioid App Contest

The FDA is calling on computer programmers, entrepreneurs and innovators in general from all disciplines to create a mobile phone app that can connect opioid users, potentially in the midst of an overdose crisis, to nearby carriers of naloxone, to increase their chance of receiving a dose in a timely manner, and, ultimately, increase their chances of survival.

Participants have until October 7, to register for the contest. They will then be given access  to background resources, including information about the opioid epidemic, approved formulations of naloxone, public health recommendations for the use of naloxone and FDA guidance on mobile medical application.

On October 19 and 20, the FDA will host a two-day code-a-thon. It will be hosted in person on FDA campus and virtually for registered participants. This offers participants a chance to collaborate with other creators, which is encouraged. All code will be made open-source and publicly accessible.

Participants can then refine their app and submit a video of a functional prototype, with information on the development and use of the app. The prototype must be submitted by November 7.

Judges from the FDA, NIDA and SAMHSA will judge submissions and the highest scoring app will receive an award of $40,000. Following the competition, participants can also apply for NIDA Small Business Innovation Research grants.


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