New app created at med school aims to help battle opioid crisis, save lives
SUDBURY -- Three students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) have created a new app that aims to help this part of the province deal with the opioid crisis.
Naloxone North is the idea of fourth-year medical students MacKenzie Ludgate, Jordan Law and Owen Montpellier. They were tasked with coming up with an idea that would help their community.
All three are originally from the area and have seen the opioid crisis spike in recent years.
"By following some of the news, we realized the opioid epidemic was on the rise during the pandemic," Montpellier said. "So we thought, how can we address this crisis that seemed to be escalating? I happen to have a close contact who is an app developer and one of my good friends who is a videographer."
The three looked for a way to train Ontarians on this life-saving medication and Naloxone North was born. Two of the students are pharmacists and wanted to help get this into the hands of those who need it most.
"We wanted to give them the option to have naloxone mailed to them at any address," said Ludgate.
Available across Ontario
While it's called Naloxone North, anyone who lives in Ontario and has a valid Ontario health card can use the app. It connects you with a pharmacy, which will mail you the drug after you complete its course.
"Due to the COVID pandemic, there has been an increase in social isolation and people are hesitant to go to a pharmacy or public health or even inside for fear of getting COVID," Ludgate said.
Northern Ontario has seen more than its fair share of opioid-related deaths. According to Public Health Ontario, three health units in the northeast have seen dramatic increases in their rates since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: Algoma, North Bay/Parry Sound and Sudbury.
The group is hopeful the app will help to eliminate some of the stigma facing drug users.
"But also importantly, and maybe even more importantly, areas of northern Ontario where access to pharmacies is not easy to come by," said Law.
The website is being operated in a partnership between the three students and NOSM itself.
Proud of the students
Their professor, Dr. Marion Maar, said she's proud of the trio. The school has plans to continue operating the app, even after the three moves on from medical school.
"I knew this was really needed because with the shutdown in services, a lot of people could not access naloxone anymore, and at the same time because of the pandemic, a lot of street drugs were being cut with fentanyl," said Maar.
Naloxone North will deal with both the nasal spray and injectable forms of the drug.
Judging whether the app is a success will be simple, all three told CTV News.
"If one person can use it and have the medication and potentially save a life, I think that's our benchmark right there -- anything above that is a bonus," Montpellier said.