FDA Announces Naloxone App Competition To Combat Opioid Overdoses

By John Lavitt 09/28/16

The FDA is looking for an app that can connect opioid users in the midst of an overdose with naloxone carriers nearby.

FDA Announces Naloxone App Competition To Combat Opioid Overdoses
Photo via FDA

In light of the nationwide opioid epidemic that has led to a major rise in overdoses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a competition to create a mobile naloxone app.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that has the power to save lives by reversing an overdose. Although access to the lifesaving drug varies by state, it is becoming more and more common among first responders and other professionals on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.  

The FDA is encouraging computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators from all disciplines to work on the problem of naloxone access.

With open registration for the public since Sept. 23, the FDA’s goal is to link those experiencing an overdose with people nearby that are carrying naloxone, through a mobile app.  

“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,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf in a statement. 

The FDA uses a hypothetical situation to describe the possible function of the type of app they are looking for. The hypothetical case presents two neighbors—one has naloxone readily available and the other is experiencing an opioid overdose. Since both have the app, they are able to connect, and a life is saved. 

Dr. Peter Lurie, associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis at the FDA, is convinced an app can save lives. “The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility," he said in a statement. "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.”

Developed under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the 2016 FDA Naloxone App Competition is part of an ongoing program to incite innovation in the face of difficult challenges. A panel of judges from the FDA, NIDA, and SAMHSA will evaluate submissions, and the highest-scoring entry will receive an award of $40,000 along with national recognition.

If you wish to register for the competition, you can visit the challenge.gov website. The submission deadline is Nov. 7.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.