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Life-saving invention for opioids created in Calgary

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WATCH: The Calgary creator and research engineer behind an invention designed to address the epidemic of opioid overdoses across the country hopes it will save lives. Jill Croteau reports – Jun 26, 2019

A Vancouver man and a Calgary research engineer have together developed a hand-held device that will save people from opioid overdoses.

The concept came from a near-death experience. Afshin Hamed has a friend whose teenage son barely survived an overdose.

“How do I stop someone else from going through this battle, because it just ruined his life,” Hamed said. “His son got access to medications and took one a day. To get the high, he took 2, then it was 3, then 4. And the next thing you know — the snowball effect — and they had to bring him back to life.”

Afshin Hamed and Scott Baker in SAIT lab. Jill Croteau

The fallout from that friend’s experience compelled Hamed to envision a piece of technology to prevent people from becoming addicts. He pitched his design of a ‘smart pill dispenser’ to SAIT’s ‘Applied Research and Innovation Technology‘ department.

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Researcher Scott Baker, engineered a prototype using a 3D printer. The device is technologically savvy enough to only dispense the prescribed dose.

“The key challenge was to get one pill every time. Never more, never less,” Baker said.

“Without that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do in managing medication.”

‘Smart pill dispenser’ prototype. Jill Croteau

Data would be transmitted to a caregiver or physician to help them track the date and time each pill was dispensed.

“The ‘Ah ha!’ moment was finding a device that does give the pill every time and that ended up involving not a blind mechanical system where the user pushes a button on a black box and out comes the pill. It’s a little more involved,” Baker explained.

It’s the social investment that’s fuelling this potential breakthrough for the entire team.

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Alternate prototype. Afshin Hamed

“You could make a useful product, sell it, launch it, make a bunch of money. But the satisfaction here is that I’ve contributed back to society,” Hamed said.

“It will be exciting to see when it proved this idea and it saved this kids life,” Baker said. “I’m looking forward to that day.”

There won’t be any cost to the end user if it gets all the industry and federal government approval it requires.  It’s still about a year from being taken to market, but a Halifax pharmacy chain has agreed to launch a trial with 200 of their patients.

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