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FDA App Challenge Honors Opioid Abuse, Overdose Tool

The app helps individuals suffering from opioid abuse connect with a naloxone carrier in the event of an overdose.

By Sara Heath

A California-based startup has won an FDA app challenge aimed at fighting opioid abuse and preventing deadly overdoses. OD Help, created by PwrdBy, connects potential opioid overdose victims with naloxone carriers, said the FDA in a blog post.


According to Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, Associate Commissioner for Public Health Strategy and Analysis, the contest asked participants to create apps that will quickly and efficiently connect potential opioid overdoses with layman carriers of naloxone, a drug which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

OD Help accomplishes this by offering a crowd-sourced network of naloxone carriers. When an individual thinks they may have overdosed on an opioid, they can log onto the app and issue a call to an available naloxone carrier.

The app can be adjusted for different regions – rural versus urban, for example – by adjusting the radius of the search area. The app also contains features that will help victims contact a naloxone carrier even when they are incapacitated due to the potential overdose.

“An additional innovative feature of OD Help is the optional interface with a breathing monitor to detect when a victim’s breathing rate is dangerously low, a sign of an opioid overdose,” Lurie explained. “Hence, if the victim is alone and unable to call for help, OD Help will detect the diminished breathing and alert a naloxone carrier of the potential overdose.”

The app does not contact naloxone carriers who are outside of a victim’s radius, and allows carriers to turn off or dismiss notifications if they are unable to answer a specific call. The app also provides instructions for identifying an overdose and how to administer naloxone, and contacts emergency medical responders.

According to Lurie, the app contributes to the FDA’s efforts to fight the opioid crisis. In 2015, 91 individuals died from an opioid overdose every day. Naloxone, which can now be administered by non-medical personnel provided the appropriate training, can help curb this number. Since Naloxone was introduced in a common market in 1996, it has reversed nearly 26,000 opioid overdoses.

According to Lurie, the drug can be even more effective given a quick and efficient method for connecting opioid victims with naloxone carriers.

For its part in this effort, Team PwrdBy received a $40,000 prize. Team MIT also received an honorable mention for their app, NalNow.


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