This morning San Francisco-based telemedicine platform HeyDoctor announced that its customers will now be able to receive naloxone, including Narcan, through its website and mobile app.
Users will first go through a text chat-based consultation with a physician on HeyDoctor about how and when to use the medication, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The prescription can then be sent to a mail-order pharmacy or local pharmacy for pickup.
Why it matters
Within the last decade the rate of opioid-related deaths has sky rocketed. In 2017 the CDC reported that opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths or 67.8 percent of all overdose deaths that year. One of the factors to which the agency attributes the high death rate is synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. Prescription opioids also continue to be involved in a substantial portion of deaths, according to the CDC.
Naloxone has the ability to reverse opioid overdoses and can restore normal respiration to someone whose breathing has slowed or stopped, according to the National Institutes of Health. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams released a statement reccomendng naloxone to anyone on a high dose of opioids, or who uses any kind of opioid, as well as to healthcare practioners and family and friends of individuals with an opioid use disorder.
What's the trend
In the last few years scores of tech companies have come out with platforms designed to address the opioid epidemic. A November Rock Health report suggested that digital tools could be key to tackling the crisis. It went on to outline how technology could help with opioid-related data collection and expanding the scope of treatment.
Last month the FDA announced the winners of its opioid addiction innovation challenge. The agency selected eight winners from had 250 applicants. The technologies included everything from smart pill bottles designed to prevent overdosing and sharing to a company working on virtual reality for chronic pain as an alternative to opioids.
On the record
“We’ve added naloxone prescriptions and delivery to our platform because we want to make sure anyone who needs it can get it,” Dr. Brendan Levy, HeyDoctor Founder and CEO, said in a statement. “For anyone living in rural areas without close proximity to a pharmacy or who may be concerned with asking for the medication in public due to the stigma associated with opioid use and addiction, it’s crucial that we do everything we can to remove those barriers. Having access to naloxone when you need it can mean being able to save a loved one’s life.”