FDA Contest Seeks App to Fight Opioid Overdose

Alicia Ault

September 19, 2016

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sponsoring a contest to come up with an app that will quickly bring naloxone (multiple brands) to individuals who are overdosing on prescription or illicit opioids.

The Naloxone App Competition starts September 23 and is open to any and all, including computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

Naloxone can quickly reverse an opioid overdose, but it is only available by prescription in the United States.

Some states and localities have begun issuing standing orders so that community members, first responders, and laypersons who have received training in the use of the drug can more easily access naloxone.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of laypersons who were provided with naloxone nearly tripled between 2010 and 2014.

But the availability and use of naloxone is still not widespread, and people carrying the drug may not be present when an overdose occurs.

"The goal of this competition is to develop a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile application that addresses this issue of accessibility," said Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis at the FDA, in a press briefing.

"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," he said in an FDA statement.

The FDA is inviting those who register for the contest to participate in a 2-day code-a-thon on October 19 and 20. Final entries — to be submitted by November 7 — will be judged by a panel of experts from the FDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The highest-scoring entrant will receive $40,000 from the agencies to further develop the concept.

According to the contest announcement in the Federal Register, which will be published September 20, developers will retain intellectual property rights to the submission. However, they will be granting the FDA a royalty-free worldwide license and the right to reproduce, publicly perform, publicly display, and use the app.

In addition, the code for the app must be open source.


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