Device developed by Illinois researchers helps prevent fatal drug overdoses

Covid-19 has certainly fanned the flames when it comes to drug overdose deaths in the US.

The CDC recently reported more than 100,000 people died from a drug overdose during the first year of the pandemic. Many of those were due to an opioid addiction.

In a FOX 32 Special Report, we take a look at a new device that’s in the works to cut that number down to size.

Every second counts more than you may know when someone has overdosed on drugs.

"Within four minutes, you could be brain-dead," said Charles Bandoian.

Bandoian is the CEO of Innovative Health Strategies — a Peoria based health care think tank that’s working with researchers at Bradley University to develop a device that would stop an opioid overdose.

"We were dismayed by the number of overdose deaths from opioids," Bandoian said. "We thought we needed something or at least try something."

After two years of collaborating, they've come up with a two-inch wonder.

"The device has a long name. It’s really just an automated opioid overdose injection device," Bandoian said.

It works like this.

"As soon as it detects an overdose, it will activate. Send the 911 call and the first dose will be injected within 1.2 seconds," said Mohammad Imtiaz, Electrical Engineering Assistance Professor at Bradley University.

The device detects if an overdose is happening by tracking the wearer's respirations.

"So opioids suppress the breathing and when that happens, the oxygen saturation goes down," Bandoian said.


After the device sends a text message to 911 indicating an overdose is happening, it continues to monitor the wearer's vital signs for the next five minutes. If there is no improvement, then it administers another dose of Nalmefene.

Bandoian says it will deliver up to three doses total, every five minutes if needed.

Nalmefene in clinical trials actually lasts three times longer … than naloxone," Bandoian said. "It’s much stronger."

Bandoian and Imtiaz say the target user for this device is for the person who is trying to beat their opioid addiction. A battle where mistakes can, and do, happen.

"One of the odd things about people who are trying to get off opioids is the longer they are, they don’t have opioids, the less tolerant they are," Bandoian said.

While the researchers realize they are not the first to try to develop a device like this, they say theirs is the smallest and the most wearable so far. It would attach to your upper arm, abdomen or thigh with a medical adhesive.

"At this time, we are seeing this as a disposable device," Imtiaz said.

Now, the device isn’t ready for patient use yet. The researchers still need to complete the testing phase, but hope to make it available within the next year.

Those researchers add this device could have a few other uses, such as filling it with epinephrine for people who have a peanut allergy.