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Having a severe allergic reaction without an EpiPen on hand is a life-compromising nightmare: Without immediate medical attention, a person suffering from a nut allergy or a bee sting or some other intense intolerance could go into anaphylactic shock—which occurs in 1 in 50 Americans and could lead to death in as few as 15 minutes. That’s why one research team decided to create an app that would potentially put the epinephrine-injecting, life-saving tool into someone’s hand far quicker than an ambulance can arrive on the scene.
Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel created EpiMada, an app that uses the same algorithms as ride-sharing services to match a person with someone nearby who carries an EpiPen, according to Mental Floss. Here’s how it the service is intended to work: Let’s say your allergy is triggered, you don’t have an EpiPen on you, and a medical team won’t arrive on the scene in time to help before you go into anaphylactic shock (typically 3 to 30 minutes after exposure, so act fast). Using EpiMada, a total stranger could jump in and rescue you with their personal EpiPen—the infamously prohibitively expensive adrenaline-dispensing device 3.6 million Americans were reportedly were prescribed in 2015 alone. But regarding that high cost, app co-creator Michal Gaziel Yablowitz, a doctoral student, says in a press release that “preliminary research results show that allergy patients are highly motivated to give their personal EpiPen to patient-peers in immediate need.”
“With hundreds of allergy sufferers signed on and more to follow, we hope that this initiative helps save crucial minutes to first epinephrine use.” —app co-creator Dr. David G. Schwartz
For safety reasons, each user with a current epinephrine prescription will be individually accepted into the app—and to use the service, you have to apply to join the community, which is reportedly growing. “The potential of leveraging patients carrying the same medication to respond in emergencies is enormous,” EpiMada co-creator David G. Schwartz, PhD, says. “With hundreds of allergy sufferers signed on and more to follow, we hope that this initiative helps save crucial minutes to first epinephrine use.”
Unfortunately, the app is currently only available in Israel, but the researchers are working on similar services around the world: One in Philadelphia is currently using the same concept as EpiMada but with naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.
This is yet another example that illustrates how technology can be used to improve people’s access to health care.