The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced a new challenge “to spur the development of medical devices, including digital health technologies and diagnostic tests that could provide novel solutions to detecting, treating and preventing addiction, addressing diversion and treating pain” in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.

It’s part of the FDA’s ongoing effort to develop new medical technologies that relieve pain and reduce the need for opioids. The agency is challenging companies to develop technologies that combat the opioid epidemic and promises to work with the companies it selects to ramp up the development of their products.

“Medical devices, including digital health devices like mobile medical apps, have the potential to play a unique and important role in tackling the opioid crisis. We must advance new ways to find tools to help address the human and financial toll of opioid addiction,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a press release on the FDA website.

This innovation challenge will hopefully lead to new ways of addressing pain and eradicating the need for opioids, as well as helping people who are currently addicted to opioids and preventing opioid addiction in the first place.

Sample products, according to the press release, could include replacement therapies for chronic pain, treatments for symptoms of opioid withdrawal and diagnostic tools that identify patients who are at a heightened risk of addiction. The challenge is open for products that are in any stage of development, as well as existing products that demonstrate “an improved benefit-risk profile” compared to opioids in pain management.

The FDA is accepting submissions now through Sept. 30, 2018.

In the last few years, the FDA has cleared, granted or approved over 200 devices related to pain management and treatment, 10 of which are new technologies. This challenge is in line with the Department of Health and Human Services’ five priorities in the fight against the opioid epidemic, one of which addresses investing in improved practices for pain management.

It’s certainly a step in the right direction. If the FDA can speed up the development of new technologies and make them available to health care professionals, this effort could make a tangible impact in reducing the scope of the opioid epidemic.

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