Prescription pain killers are causing a national epidemic of deaths from overdoses, with nearly three out of four prescription overdose deaths being caused by opioid pain relievers. Accompanying the sharp rise of opioid analgesics sales (tripled between 1999 and 2008) is a record-high number of overdose deaths in the United States, with more than 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008 from opioid painkillers. Fatal opioid overdose events can be reversed with timely administration of the mu-opioid receptor antagonist naloxone hydrochloride (also known as Narcan), given intramuscularly, intranasally or intravenously. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity for Narcan is brief and delayed Narcan intervention can result in prolonged respiratory depression, malignant arrhythmias and/or complete respiratory/ cardiac arrest, leading to escalated medical care, not to mention permanent brain damage or even death.
There are currently no dedicated mobile vital signs monitoring devices readily available with appropriate alarms to alert subjects and/or caregivers of declining physiological status indicative of an opioid overdose. This is rather remarkable given the wide variety of mobile monitoring devices that measure vital signs in various settings. Most of the available mobile monitoring devices track only one or two vital signs and are not designed with a front-end mobile interface to feed relevant physiological information directly back to patients and/or their care providers in case of an opioid overdose. This proposal directly addresses the lack of a comprehensive small mobile platform to monitor multiple vital signs with real-time feedback for subjects under treatment with opioids. Clearly, the development of such a monitoring platform will have a major impact on the delivery of healthcare services for chronic opioid pain management and ultimately will have the potential to prevent or limit the negative impact of an opioid overdose completely if combined with administration of naloxone.