FDA Launches Mobile App Competition to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Calling all innovators: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration needs your help.

The FDA on Sept. 19 launched the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, a public contest focused on using innovative technologies to fight the opioid epidemic. The agency is asking the public for mobile app designs that would help opioid abusers locate naloxone, an overdose reversal medication.

The app competition is intended to make naloxone more accessible as not everyone has access to the lifesaving 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 press release.

In the past, mobile phone apps have been used to educate the masses on the use of naloxone, Lurie said. But no current application connects carriers of this medication with victims of opioid overdose.

That’s where tech-savvy or clinically educated individuals can help.

The FDA looks to recruit innovators of all professions for this competition. These professionals may include computer programmers, clinical researchers, public health advocates or entrepreneurs.

Participants will be equipped with access to data on the epidemic, the approved chemical formula of naloxone and public health recommendations associated with the drug.

Registration ends Oct. 7, 2016.

From Oct. 19 to Oct. 20, the agency will host a two-day coding event for registered participants to cultivate their ideas. The gathering will be held virtually and on the FDA campus in Silver Spring, Maryland. There, entrants can collaborate and innovate together.

Participants can submit their final prototype, a video and a summary of their work on Nov. 7, 2016.

A judging panel — comprising members of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the FDA — will review submissions. The highest-scored entrant will receive $40,000.

The Importance of Naloxone

Naloxone, brand name Narcan, is an FDA-approved medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Opioids include heroin, hydrocodone and fentanyl.

The medication blocks opioid receptors, mitigating the effects of overdose. Naloxone can be injected into a muscle or intravenously, or sprayed up the nose. Once administered, an overdose victim can regain consciousness within two minutes.

Nearly every state has passed a law allowing the purchase of naloxone without a doctor’s prescription. Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming have yet to pass a law improving the accessibility of the medication.

Drug stores and pharmacies across the United States are expanding access to the drug.

Use of the medication has skyrocketed over the last decade. A survey by the Harm Reduction Coalition found that various organizations provided more than 152,000 naloxone kits to laypersons from 1996 to 2014. Laypersons included drug users, their families and friends, and service providers.

The accessibility of naloxone nearly tripled from 2010 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working to expand access to naloxone, particularly in rural and tribal communities. In September 2015, the Health Resources and Services Administration provided $1.8 million in funding to improve naloxone accessibility in 18 rural communities.

A Damaging Epidemic

Opioids have had a damaging effect on Americans in recent years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28,000 people died of opioid overdose in 2014 — more than any year on record. More than six of every 10 drug overdoses involved an opioid.

The rate of overdose deaths involving opioids have nearly quadrupled since 1999, per the HHS.

The FDA hopes to reverse this trend using 21st century technology.

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

Follow the 2016 Naloxone App Competition on social media using #NaloxoneApp. Visit fda.gov for more information.

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