Northern medical students create app to make it easier to access Naloxone kits
By Canadian Press
By Canadian Press
March 8, 2021 – Some students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) have created a smartphone app to improve access to Naloxone, the drug that is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
The idea is to add a level of privacy for those who wish to get a Naloxone kit either for themselves or for individuals they know, who might be at risk for an opioid overdose.
The new app has been developed by Jordan Law, MacKenzie Ludgate and Owen Montpellier; all fourth-year students who developed the application as a free and confidential service that can have a Naloxone kit delivered to your front door.
NOSM said with the opioid death rate continuing to rise in Northern Ontario, medical students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) saw a way to improve access to Naloxone.
Ludgate, a medical student and pharmacist, said the pandemic has made the crisis worse.
“Opioid-related death rates in many parts of Northern Ontario are higher during this pandemic and significantly higher than the numbers being reported elsewhere in Ontario,” he said.
Montpellier, who also worked on the app, said the privacy aspect is one that might allow for more people to consider obtaining one of the life-saving kits, where in other circumstances they might not have one.
“This app offers privacy and access to people who want to have a Naloxone kit on-hand, but who are uncomfortable facing the stigma or fear associated with asking for one in person at a pharmacy or clinic,” he said.
Law, who is also a pharmacist and fourth-year student, said the new app could be a welcome thing for Northerners living in isolated areas.
“The Naloxone North app also provides improved access for those living in remote, isolated or rural communities in Northern Ontario,” said Law.
“As long as you have an Ontario Health card, you can order the kit through the app and request that it be shipped to your preferred location.”
The NOSM news release said the students followed the guidelines of the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Naloxone Program to meet the applicable policy requirements for safe Naloxone administration, education and distribution.
“Advocacy-focused projects—like Naloxone North—were incorporated into NOSM’s fourth-year MD curriculum as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early stages of the pandemic, NOSM faculty worked quickly to introduce a new curriculum that focused on building advocacy leadership skills at a time when students were not able to work on the frontlines,” said the school.
Dr. Marion Maar, Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology and faculty advisor on the project, commented that aside from the obvious life-saving benefit, the initiative should also provide valuable research.
“The app provides a simultaneous opportunity to conduct research that will determine whether it is an effective way to support opioid recovery in Northern Ontario. I’m proud of the innovative ideas that NOSM students have implemented to address some of the longstanding issues in our region. During a difficult time of change, they embraced a new curriculum and are indeed making an impact.” said Marr.
Statistics from Public Health Ontario (PHO) show the opioid-related death rates in many parts of Northern Ontario are significantly higher than the numbers being reported in other parts of Ontario, said the school.
A NOSM research team received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study recovery in the opioid crisis in Northern Ontario. They will leverage their work to support ongoing development of the Naloxone North app and study its uptake in rural, Francophone and Indigenous communities.
The research is being conducted in collaboration with First Nations and led by Drs. Marion Maar, Darrel Manitowabi, Lorrilee McGregor, and Diana Urajnik, in partnership with the medical students. The medical students would like to thank Dr. Nicholas Fortino, emergency physician at Health Sciences North, for his guidance with the app, which is currently available for free for both Android and iPhone.