frog Design Firm Streamlines Narcan Device into 3D Printed All-in-One Antidote

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[Photo: San Francisco Chronicle]

I live in Colorado, which undoubtedly is one of the most beautiful states you will ever visit. It’s famous for having the highest elevation of any state as well as the most fourteeners (mountains towering above 14,000 feet). In recent years of course, this lovely state has also become famous as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana—and in doing so, that conversation, aside from Broncos pride, has eclipsed most other conversations as weed becomes almost an iconic symbol—and still an extremely controversial one. It becomes easy to forget that that there are much larger and ever-growing drug problems to deal with, and numerous organizations have been reaching out recently making sure that parents are well aware of the rising issues associated with heroin use. Many are surprised to hear it is on the upswing. And with that comes an upswing in overdoses.

To say that it’s alarming to think of young kids using needles and hard drugs would be an understatement—but the statistics on how many are at risk of overdose—along with all ages—are further terrifying. And while you might think you would never have to save anyone—and especially not someone close to you—it’s important to understand how antidotes like naloxone, or Narcan, can be obtained and how they work. If you’ve experienced the tragedy of losing someone in your life to an overdose, then you also understand what a miracle Narcan is, in any form.


]Photo: San Francisco Chronicle]

San Francisco industrial designer Jonathan Grossman understood the need in his community for the antidote, as heroin use is a problem in his home city, like in many others. Gaining a rudimentary understanding of how the device is meant to be used for administering the antidote, he was immediately frustrated by the unrealistic complexity of using it and sought to create something more simple. Grossman understood that often when Narcan is being given, it’s by a fellow user; obviously, the manufacturers are expecting them to realize that the kit is comprised of seven parts with caps and a glass vial that has to be inserted into an atomizer. Once everything is assembled, half a dose has to be meticulously squirted in each nostril.

“It’s not the optimal device,” said Dr. Phillip Coffin, director of substance use research for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Grossman saw that the current device was definitely stretching the limits for a drug-addicted culture when it comes to potentially saving each others’ lives. He knew there had to be a simpler way to present the antidote.

“I was watching this training video on how to use naloxone and I said, ‘That’s terrible!’ It’s an emergency situation going on,” said Grossman, who works for global design firm frog, founded in 1969, and famous for their work with companies like Apple and Sony.

Pulling together simpler design ideas for the device and combining them with 3D printing, Grossman was able to come up with a streamlined nasal device that auto-administers naloxone. This is a much easier alternative for those injecting heroin as well as taking opioid pills, although there is still an injectable form widely available as well.


[Photo: Michael Short, San Francisco Chronicle]

He used his talents to work on a new concept, designing and refining, until settling upon a cylindrical-shaped prototype he made with a 3D printer. Two connected syringes allow for the user to offer the drug in one quick dose. The 3D printed device is pre-assembled and sturdy.

“You open it up and you administer it,” Grossman said. “It’s a one-step process.”

With a working prototype out there, frog is currently seeking a partner in the healthcare industry to work through the approval and manufacturing process.

“The very best work we can bring to our clients is deeply rooted in the people who need those products,” said Lindsey Mosby, frog’s health care practice lead, commenting how relevant a device like this is to their mission.

In 2014, the city of San Francisco was able to distribute enough kits to lead to 365 overdose preventions. There are five versions of naloxone currently available. For the nasal device, the price-tag is around $70, while two injectable generic forms of the drug are about $15 a dose, said Coffin. There are other options being explored as well.

“I appreciate efforts to develop devices that are more simple and straightforward to administer, require less training and have fewer opportunities for user error,” said Coffin.

And we all appreciate that design firms like frog have taken time out to worry about an issue that affects people around the world, and indeed may save their lives and give them the second chance they need to get true help. Grossman’s prototype is just one more miraculous and highly customized innovation springing forth from the 3D printer, offering up a new and very helpful product that should be easily and affordably manufactured. Do you think this device has the potential to make a difference? Discuss in the 3D Printed Narcan Device forum over at

[Source: San Francisco Chronicle]

[Photo: San Francisco Chronicle]

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