The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a challenge called the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, on Sept. 19, urging developers to create an app to combat the opioid overdose epidemic.

Opioid overdose deaths have been drastically increasing in the country lately and the timely administration of the drug naloxone can save many lives. However, making naloxone available to people in need is a big challenge.

To overcome this problem, the FDA along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have invited computer professionals, health care advocates, entrepreneurs, clinical researchers and innovators to develop a mobile app that could help people avail timely administration of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose.

Given the drastic increase in the number of deaths due to opioid overdose in the U.S., it is important to link overdosing individuals with those in possession of naloxone and can administer the drug.

"[T]here's a vital need to harness the power of new technologies," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert M. Califf, in a press release.

Califf added that the competition has been announced to find innovators who make use of the advanced technologies to bring solution for health care related issues that costs the lives of tens of thousands of people in the country.

Naloxone works by reversing the effect of opioid narcotics in the brain. If administrated on time, it can save a person from death in just a few minutes, reported the Orlando Sentinel.

Given that not many people readily have access to the drug, this is where the mobile application comes into play. If a person is found unresponsive because of an opioid overdose, the first responder at the scene can use the naloxone finder app on a mobile device to determine where the quickest access to the drug is.

Dr. Peter Lurie, public health strategy and analysis associate commissioner at the FDA, said that the idea of the competition is to come up with a scalable, inexpensive and crowd-sourced cell phone application that will address the problem of naloxone accessibility.

He added that mobile apps to educate layman in recognizing overdosed individuals, administering the reversal drug and providing other health care services like CPR are available already. However, there is no app developed by far to connect a person in need of naloxone with the individual carrying the drug. It is more important to connect the victim with the nearest source possible because even a minute-delay could prove fatal.

Photo: Government of Alberta | Flickr

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