FDA launches contest to develop mobile app technology to fight opioid overdose epidemic

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The FDA launched a public contest to develop new technologies that can be used with mobile apps to stem the rising epidemic of opioid overdoses in the U.S.

Called the 2016 Naloxone App Competition, the contest is asking people with expertise in tech fields as well as public health advocates and clinical researchers to come up with a mobile phone app that can connect opioid users experiencing an overdose with the nearest location that has the prescription drug naloxone, the antidote for an opioid overdose.

The winner will receive a $40,000 award and may apply for National Institute on Drug Abuse Small Business Innovation Research grants to further develop their concepts and to develop data to evaluate their real-world impact, the FDA said.

“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 … with someone who carries and can administer the life-saving medication,” Dr. Robert Califf, the agency’s commissioner, said in a statement.

The competition is being held with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to government statistics, about 28,000 people died in the U.S. in 2014 from abusing prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine and illicit opioids, such as heroin and illegally produced fentanyl. That is triple the number of such deaths recorded since 1999.