FDA offers cash prize to develop lifesaving opioid app

FDA offers cash prize to develop lifesaving opioid app
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The Obama administration has launched a contest intended to help reduce the number of people who die every year from overdosing on powerful painkillers, known as opioids.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Monday that it is looking for computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators to develop a mobile phone application that can connect an opioid user experiencing an overdose with a nearby carrier of Naloxone, a prescription drug that acts as an overdose antidote.

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The winner of the 2016 Naloxone App Competition will receive $40,000.

Though Naloxone is only available in the U.S. with a prescription, FDA said states have taken steps to make it more readily accessible to first responders, community-based organizations, and friends and family of opioid users. 

“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 — or a bystander such as a friend or family member — with someone who carries and can administer the life-saving medication,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in a statement.

“Through this competition, we are tapping public health-focused innovators to help bring technological solutions to a real-world problem that is costing the U.S. thousands of lives each year.”

On a call with reporters, Peter Laurie, FDA’s associate commissioner for public health strategy and analysis, said almost as many people die annually from opioid-related overdoses as they do from motor vehicle crashes. In 2014, opioid overdoses claimed 28,000 lives.

The contest is part of President Obama’s Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.