B.C. startup developing wearable tech that could save drug users from overdosing

Gordon Casey worked in finance in the Caribbean for 15 years, and when he moved to Vancouver in 2016 he saw an opportunity to use his earnings for good — he poured $50,000 of it into a tech startup aimed at saving lives in the opioid crisis.

At least 1,448 British Columbians died of illicit drug overdoses last year, according to the latest B.C. Coroners Service data — nearly 28 a week. The first three months of this year saw that number rise past 30 deaths a week, 91 per cent of them indoors and alone.

Casey and biomedical engineer Sampath Satti realized drug users need a stigma-free buddy system.  They plan to invent one using technology.  “What if there was a local alert system that, when someone is using and an overdose episode occurs, we look at the physiological changes that happen in the human body and elicit a local response?” he told StarMetro in an interview.

It’s just one of a number of technologies being harnessed in hopes of saving lives from the overdose epidemic in B.C., which experts said has become a world leader in the area.

The province has made the overdose-reversing drug naloxone more available to the public, allowing pharmacies to carry the kits and creating online tutorials on how to use the antidote.  But having a naloxone kit handy is of little help when people use opioids alone, because overdoses can happen so quickly users can’t inject the antidote themselves in time.

There have been no deaths at supervised injection sites to date.

Satti, a masters student at the University of B.C.’s biomedical engineering department, is developing a device that drug users can wear on their wrist or finger.

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