FDA launches competition to create app to help during a drug overdose

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s become routine for Twin City Ambulance crews to use naloxone to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“Right now we’re actually administering Narcan on a daily basis, at the very least,” said Terence Clark, the president.

The FDA is now trying to make the drug more available. It launched a competition asking people to create an app to connect people having an overdose to someone nearby who is carrying naloxone.

The FDA is “inviting computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators from all disciplines” to register for the competition by Oct. 7. Competitors will have a month to refine their idea. The grand prize is $40,000.

Erie County Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein, said she’s worried about the effectiveness of a naloxone app.

“If somebody is overdosing, or they have overdosed, it may be difficult for them to get on their smart phone and activate this app and somehow call for help,” said Dr. Burstein.

She said it could create a false sense of security.

The drug has to be taken within minutes of an overdose.

“Depending on someone you don’t know, you don’t know what their training is, you don’t know if they’re available the time when you call them, you don’t know if they have all of the medications you need, I mean I would be really worried about that,” said Dr. Burstein.

She says calling 911 is the best option.

There are similar apps on the market already. An app called Pulse Point connects people in cardiac arrest to those nearby who are trained in CPR.  It has a five out of five rating in Apple’s app store.

Clark thinks a naloxone app could help in areas with poor cell coverage..

“In some situations this may be a good thing but in other situations it may actually be a hindrance to getting care to people,” said Clark. “You could have a situation where your first responder might be two or three minutes away and the person with the Narcan is six or eight minutes away.”

He hopes the app the FDA rolls out will also notify first responders.

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