Purdue researchers develop device that could automatically stop opioid overdoses

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 130 people die every day from opioid-related overdoses.

Now, researchers at Purdue say they’ve developed a tool to give those victims a fighting chance.

Hyowon “Hugh” Lee, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue, and his team have developed a device that could detect an overdose and automatically deliver a high dose of the lifesaving drug naloxone.

“What we’re trying to do is come up with an engineered system to address the problem of opioid overdose,” Lee said.

The device works in two parts:

First, a wearable device, placed somewhere on the body, would detect an overdose by monitoring a person’s respiration rate.

Then, once the overdose is detected, a small implant injected into the body releases a concentrated dose of naloxone.

“It’s a much larger dose than you would get from a single dose of naloxone or single inhalation of Narcan. We want to be able to give them a large enough dose so that the patient has a longer period of time to get medical attention,” Lee said.

Opioid users tend to be alone during an overdose, which means precious time goes by before they’re even found or given help. Lee says the device could help bridge that gap.

“We wanted to come up with something simple and translatable to be able to actually address this issue of opioid overdose,” said Lee.

The research team’s work appears in the Journal of Controlled Release.

Advocates, like Justin Philips, the executive director of Overdose Lifeline, says a tool like this could be a game changer once in production.

“You can’t administer naloxone to yourself right now. This would be amazing and so lifesaving,” she said.

Phillips also rejects the idea that the device would serve as a “safety net” for those who want to abuse drugs with no consequences.

“Permission to save my life with a medication until I can get into treatment is not enabling me to use. It’s keeping me alive,” Phillips said.

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