The strain of health care systems around the world caused by the pandemic means many other services have been cut. This includes those tackling the opioid epidemic, which accounted for 70 percent of overdoses in 2019, according to the CDC. While many government policies look at this issue from a preventative standpoint, it is also important to work with addicted people to decrease the number of deaths caused by the drug.
Wearable antidote device
Avoiding these deaths was the inspiration behind a research team based at the University of Washington. The group has developed a wearable device that attaches to the stomach, as an insulin pump would. The machine works by monitoring the person’s breathing and movement, using algorithms to detect the dangerous respiratory patterns associated with an overdose. When this is detected, the device injects naloxone, a life saving antidote. This drug is extremely rapid and effective at reversing opioid damage.
Researchers conducted clinical studies at Vancouver Hospital with 25 volunteers suffering from opioid addiction. Data was gathered for the device’s AI algorithm, teaching it the fatal breathing patterns caused by the drug. The trials showed the device was able to pick up on these and successfully administer naloxone into the bloodstream. Alex Lyness, senior manager of the hospital project, made a statement about the cutting edge technology: “We are pleased to have been able to contribute to this project and prototype system that is intent on solving such a significant unmet need.”
An accessible solution
The study detailing the novel injector system, published in Scientific Reports, claims the impact and accessibility of this system could be huge. The device still needs FDA approval, but with the opioid crisis growing, this could be their light in the dark. “This wearable auto-injector may have the potential to reduce fatalities due to opioid overdoses,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We are hopeful it can have a tangible impact on a big source of suffering in this country.”
Source study: Scientific Reports – Closed-loop wearable naloxone injector system