FDA competition aims to reduce deaths from opioid overdose

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a competition to develop an app that connects opioid users who are overdosing with people nearby that have naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose.

The 2016 FDA Naloxone App Competition offers a $40,000 prize. The goal is to spur the development of "a low-cost, scalable, crowd-sourced mobile phone application that helps increase the likelihood that opioid users, their immediate personal networks, and first respondsers are able to identify and react to an overdose by administering naloxone," according to the FDA announcement. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2 million Americans aged 12 or older either abused or were dependent on opioid pain killers in 2014. Also in 2014, 61 percent of drug overdose deaths involved either an opioid painkiller or heroin, and between 2013 and 2014, deaths from any opioid increased 14 percent. 

Key Dates

Registration for the Competition:
Sept. 23-Oct. 7, 2016

Naloxone App Code-A-Thon:
Oct.19-20, 2016

Submission Period:
Sept. 23-Nov. 7, 2016 

Naloxone is frequently used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose in emergency rooms and on ambulances, and many states have begun making it easier for first responders and laypersons to carry and administer naloxone. It is prescription drug with few side effects.

The FDA competition invites submissions of an app that connects opioid users experiencing an overdose with nearby naloxone carriers, but also wants computer programmers, public health advocates, clinical researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators from all disciplines to create teams focused on the development of strategies to combat the opioid overdose epidemic. The FDA is most interested in concepts that are scalable, free or low-cost to the end-user and make use of existing systems for naloxone distribution and use.

Teams are encouraged, but individual submissions will be accepted. The competition will be conducted in two phases. Phase 1 will consist of a code-a-thon hosted at the FDA campus in Silver Spring, MD for registered entrants. Participation is encouraged, but not required and attendance is limited to the first 40 people who indicate interest during the registration process. All code developed during the code-a-thon will be made open-source and publicly accessible. In Phase 2, entrants will develop a functional prototype and submit a video of the prototype via YouTube by the submission deadline.

For additional information on the competition go to http://www.challenge.gov. The competition is under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (COMPETES Act).