Naloxone, an App for That?

FDA calls on coders to create an app to connect naloxone to people at risk for an overdose. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is launching a competition to create a naloxone app to help address the epidemic of opioid overdoses.

The Washington Post reports:

It will be like Yelp, but for the nearest naloxone instead of takeout Chinese.

In an announcement Monday, officials called on coders across the country to submit entries to the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, a program developed under the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Reauthorization Act of 2010, which funds prize contests created by federal agencies to spark innovation.

Registration opens Sept. 23 and closes Oct. 7. The FDA will host a two-day code-a-thon virtually and on its campus Oct. 19-20, where participants will develop early concepts. All code will be made open-source, according to a news release, and “collaboration will be encouraged.”

“The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility,” Peter Lurie, associate FDA commissioner, said in the news release. “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.”

The article provides some background on state and federal efforts to expand access to naloxone.

The dilemma is this: Despite the FDA’s desperate efforts to fast-track the approval of an easily administered, lifesaving form of an opioid overdose antidote called naloxone, the drug still requires a prescription in some states. Without immediate access in the critical moments of an overdose, as a person’s breathing grows more shallow and level of consciousness fades, the antidote is useless.

Some states have tried to eliminate this barrier by making naloxone — and a nasal-spray version of the antidote sold under the brand name Narcan — more readily available to first responders, community organizations and even the friends and family members of opioid users, and some states have made the antidote available without a prescription — all in an effort to create a grass-roots web of people willing and able to help.

Read the full article in The Washington Post for more information.

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