Researchers at Purdue University are developing a device that can automatically detect an overdose and deliver naloxone, which reverses deadly effects.
The device would not require someone to be aware that he or she was experiencing an overdose or to self-inject naloxone, and could keep a person stable long enough for emergency services to arrive, say the researchers.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, almost 130 people die in the United States each day from opioid-related drug overdoses.
The Purdue team has constructed a wearable device designed to detect when someone’s respiration rate decreases to a certain level and then release naloxone, which blocks the opioid from binding to brain receptors.
Currently, the device is an armband that straps on a magnetic field generator, connected to a portable battery worn at the hip. A sticker-like EKG sensor on the skin measures respiration rate; when the rate is too low, the sensor activates the generator to heat up a drug capsule in the body, which releases naloxone in 10 seconds.
The researchers envision the drug capsule being pre-injected under the skin in an outpatient setting. Thus, the system would automatically deliver naloxone to the patient during an overdose, affording about one hour before relapse.
This extra hour would give emergency services sufficient time to get the patient to the hospital, say the researchers. The capsule also delivers a larger dose of naloxone than currently available products, which would make it more effective at delaying relapse and cheaper to manufacture.
The device doesn’t yet work automatically, but in vitro and in vivo experiments show that the setup successfully detects a low respiration rate from EKG signals and delivers naloxone.
Since submitting their work for publication, in the Journal of Controlled Release, the researchers have downsized the generator and battery to reduce bulkiness. They also plan to install a communications system into the device that would automatically alert emergency services when the patient has overdosed.
The technology has potential for delivering other drugs apart from naloxone. For example, people with allergies need epinephrine immediately, and such a device could eliminate the need for an epi pen, say the scientists.
Source: EurekAlert!, July 25, 2019