FDA launches app competition to help connect opioid overdoses with naloxone

With the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling on programmers, public health experts, clinicians and others to develop a mobile app that can connect overdosing users with nearby carriers of the life-saving drug.
By Mike Miliard
01:39 PM
FDA app opioid overdose

"Picture this," said Peter Lurie, MD, associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis at the FDA, during a Sept. 19 press conference. "You have a man or woman in apartment 2A who's experiencing an overdose. Unbeknownst to them, the neigbor down the hall in apartment 2B has naloxone.

"What if the man in in apartment 2A died when a life-saving antidote was just yards away?" Lurie asked. "What if there had been a way, on the other hand, to quickly and effectively link the overdose victim and the naloxone carrier together?"

As part of the Obama Administration's Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, FDA has launched the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, calling on programmers, public health experts, clinicians and others to develop a mobile app that can connect overdosing users with nearby carriers of the prescription drug.

Previous apps have been developed to "help the public recognize an overdose, and to administer naloxone," said Lurie. Others have connected bystanders with individuals in need of other medical services, such as CPR. But "there is still more to be done to get naloxone to those whose lives depend on it," he said.

[Also: HHS awards $53 million to tackle opioid crisis]

With support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, FDA is calling on healthcare professionals with the aim of "harnessing the power of new technologies to connect individuals with people who carry and can administer this potentially life-saving medication" – ideally speeding timely administration of naloxone and increasing the likelihood of overdose reversal.

SAMHSA data shows that some 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014. Overdose deaths involving prescriptions such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine – as well as illicit opioids such as heroin and illegally-produced fentanyl – have more than tripled since 1999, with about 28,000 people dying in 2014 alone.

Many states have worked to make naloxone, which can stop or reverse the effects of an overdose, more readily accessible to first responders and community-based organizations, as well as friends and family of opioid users. But that doesn't mean carrying naloxone are present when an overdose occurs.

Teams and individuals wishing to participate in the competition will have until Oct. 7, 2016, to register. They'll have access to background resources including information on the opioid epidemic, the approved formulations of naloxone, the public health recommendations for the safe and appropriate use of naloxone and federal guidance on mobile medical apps, according to FDA.

On Oct. 19-20, 2016, the FDA will host a two-day code-a-thon – as well as virtually – for registered entrants to develop their concepts and initial prototypes. All code will be made open-source and publicly accessible in hopes of spurring collaboraton.

Competition participants will then independently refine their concept and submit a video of a functional prototype along with a brief summary of their concept for the development and use of the app by Nov. 7, 2016. A panel of judges from the FDA, NIDA, and SAMHSA will evaluate submissions and the highest-scoring entrant will receive an award of $40,000.

Following the competition, entrants also may apply for NIDA Small Business Innovation Research grants to further develop their concepts and to develop data to evaluate their real-world impact, said FDA officials.

Telemedicine also enlisted to fight opioid abuse
Another component of the opioid awareness week is new money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is investing $4.7 million in distance learning and telehealth program grants for 18 projects in 16 states for rural communities to put communication technology to work expanding access to healthcare, substance use treatment and advanced educational opportunities.

DLT grants can be used to connect rural hospitals to larger healthcare facilities through telemedicine in order to better diagnose and treat substance use disorders.

Officials from USDA's Farm Service Agency and Rural Development Office will host opioid epidemic awareness forums in Connecticut, Colorado, Oregon and North Carolina, convening medical professionals, law enforcement, government and other stakeholders to work toward better treatment resources in rural communities

USDA has provided Red Lake Band of Chippewa a direct loan through USDA's Community Facilities program for the construction of a new, 16-bed Chemical Dependency Treatment Center, agency officials said.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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