A nasal spray naloxone kit used to counteract an opioid overdose. (Supplied by the Government of Ontario)
What started as a medical school project has now turned into a mobile app aimed at helping fight the opioid crisis.
Jordan Law, MacKenzie Ludgate and Owen Montpellier are three students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) who created the Naloxone North app.
It began as a project where the students had to come up with an advocacy project for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In northern communities, some of them are a great distance from a pharmacy. It’s not easily accessible to get to a pharmacy to get Naloxone,” explained Jordan Law.
The app allows for users to go through Naloxone training by viewing an instructional video which is followed by a quiz. Once completed, the user can have Naloxone shipped directly to their home through a pharmacy in Vaughan, Ontario.
“This is an unidentifiable way for them to access Naloxone without going to their community pharmacy where they might know someone who is working there,” Law said.
The anonymity of the app is what Law believes will lead to more people getting Naloxone, as he notes a perception behind it.
“People still feel that there is some stigma associated with it,” he said. “It definitely limits the amount of people willing to the pharmacy to pick it up.”
Law, Ludgate and Montpellier presented the project in March of 2020, receiving great praise from both peers and instructors.
“We quickly realized the potential that it had,” Law said.
With funding from NOSM, the students developed the app which is now available on the Apple and Google app stores.
The app comes during a time where opioid use is on the rise. Statistics from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit found that opioid-related deaths in the region have risen during the pandemic.
After spending nearly a year on the app, Law says it’s fulfilling to know a school project may do some good.
“It feels wonderful knowing that our time on a project is worth something,” he said. “This is one that was very fulfilling in the sense that we had an idea, it wasn’t just a checked box on the list. It was something that we’re running with and it has the potential to save lives which is a great feeling.”
While the app is only available in English right now, Law says he and his team are working on making it available in French and some Indigenous languages in the coming weeks.