App Connects Naloxone Carriers with Overdose Victims

App Connects Naloxone Carriers with Overdose Victims

Since 1996, when community-based organizations first began to distribute naloxone, the life-saving drug is estimated to have reversed over 26,000 overdoses. When we add on the lives saved by EMT, ER and police responders using naloxone, the number of lives saved becomes astronomical, but relatively unknowable. Countless thousands of such cases have gone unreported. But in roughly the same 20-year time period, the rates of overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin have nearly quadrupled, and there's no letup in sight. Last year more than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses - that's 91 people, every day of the week, all year long. There's no question that naloxone saves countless lives. But it's not the solution to the opioid addiction epidemic plaguing America.

Second chance at life, but time is of the essence

Naloxone helps reverse an opioid overdose by interrupting the drug's deadening effects on the central nervous system. It helps restore a victim's breathing and offers him or her a second chance at life. But to save a life, this miracle drug must be administered as soon as possible. Someone experiencing an overdose can't call for help or administer naloxone to themselves. Opioid overdose sneaks up on its victims, lulls them to sleep, slows down and stops their breathing and renders them unconscious. If left untreated for more than a few minutes, it just quietly kills them. Because time is of the essence, connecting an overdose victim to someone with naloxone makes the difference between life and death. It's easy for someone to dial 911 and get police and an ambulance rushing to the scene. In fact, that's the usual circumstance in most cases. But in spite of all the attention on encouraging emergency responders, friends and family of drug users, and even addicts themselves, to always have naloxone handy - many still don't. Not all cities and counties can afford to provide all their emergency responders with naloxone. And many citizens who should have it handy do not.

FDA steps up with competition for cell phone app

That's why the FDA announced its "Naloxone App Competition" earlier this year, asking cell phone app developers to come up with "innovative solutions to the problem of how to rapidly connect naloxone carriers to a person experiencing an opioid overdose." The competition offered a $40,000 first prize for the most useful and practical app. The competition asked developers to "engage with creative communities outside the agency who may not have traditionally focused on public health issues," according to an FDA statement. "We invited computer scientists, researchers, health care providers, patient advocates, academics, and entrepreneurs to form teams and submit concepts for a crowd-sourced mobile phone app that could help accelerate delivery of naloxone to a person experiencing an overdose." The competition was enthusiastically met by the developer community. Over 150 teams registered for the competition. And more than 100 developers took part in the FDA's two-day "code-a-thon" information seminar. Participants learned more about the opioid epidemic and naloxone, and began developing "compelling concepts to bring technological solutions to bear on a real-world problem," the FDA said. Judges from the FDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reviewed 45 final submissions for cell phone apps that could help connect overdoses to sources of naloxone. "While we received many thoughtful and innovative submissions," said the FDA, "a single winning team was selected to take home the cash prize of $40,000. We are pleased to announce that the winner of the 2016 FDA Naloxone App Competition is OD Help from Team Pwrdby, a small startup based in Venice, California." From the FDA statement: "The OD Help concept is a simple, easy-to-use mobile app designed to connect potential opioid overdose victims with a crowd-sourced network of naloxone carriers. OD Help can easily be tailored for use in rural or urban areas by expanding or contracting the radius within which naloxone carriers are sought. An additional innovative feature of OD Help is the optional interface with a breathing monitor to detect when a victim's breathing rate is dangerously low, a sign of an opioid overdose. Hence, if the victim is alone and unable to call for help, OD Help will detect the diminished breathing and alert a naloxone carrier of the potential overdose. Other features of OD Help include: only alerting people in one's support network and allowing naloxone carriers to disable alerts when they are unable to respond. The app also provides instructions on how to correctly diagnose an overdose and administer naloxone and helps contact emergency medical services when help is required." You can watch a video presentation of OD Help's features here.

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