The opioid crisis has led health officials to search for new and innovative ways to save lives, with many state officials focusing on giving more people, including first responders and community members, access to a life-saving opioid antidote called naloxone.
Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced a competition to give opioid users a way to get access to naloxone via their phone.
The FDA, along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA announced the 2016 Naloxone App Competition on Monday in order to bring together computer programmers, public health researchers and other experts to help combat the opioid crisis. The goal is to create an easy-to-use app that will identify the closest provider of naloxone, whether it’s a hospital, clinic or police station.
“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 Dr. Robert Califf said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Rising rates of opioid use have led to skyrocketing numbers of deaths, with a 200-percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths in the U.S., with 28,647 of these deaths resulting from some kind of opioid, according to the CDC.
Naloxone is available by prescription. But some states have allowed people without a prescription, including family and friends of opioid users, to obtain the drug. In Baltimore, the city health commissioner issued a standing order that essentially provided a citywide prescription for anyone who wanted to obtain the drug.
“The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility,” Dr. Peter Lurie, associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis at the FDA, said in a statement.
The winner of the contest will get $40,000.