The ongoing growing opioid crisis has been declared a public health emergency in Canada. Due to increasing toxicity of the illegal drug supply, there have been higher rates of overdoses since the onset of COVID-19. In addition, it has been demonstrated that most drug overdoses are accidental and occur when the dose, quality, and composition of the substance used are unknown and contain deadly ingredients.
Currently, drug checking has been deemed an important harm reduction measure by the federal government, together with supervised consumption sites, naloxone and safer supply programs. The Government of Canada has highlighted using a comprehensive public health and evidence-based approach to addressing the opioid crisis that is focused on reducing harms, as well as prevention, treatment and enforcement.
In 2018, the Government of Canada launched the Drug Checking Technology Challenge to encourage innovation in drug checking technology, since existing options were determined to be costly, complicated to use, or lacking accuracy and reliability.
Earlier in July, Scatr Inc. was announced as the winner of Health Canada and Impact Canada’s Drug Checking Technology Challenge by the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health. Scatr has received the $1 million grand prize for its innovative drug checking technology, which quickly and accurately identifies the contents of potentially toxic illegal drugs with the goal of preventing overdoses.
The device created by Scatr can be used by supervised consumption sites and services to identify the contents of potentially toxic street drugs, including whether they contain deadly ingredients such as fentanyl or benzodiazepines. As a result, this information will help people who use drugs to make appropriate decisions that may help to reduce their risk of overdose.
“As we continue to respond to the overdose crisis in Canada, it’s important that we provide tools to keep those that use drugs safe from overdose. Scatr’s drug checking technology can prevent overdoses, and better track toxic illegal drugs. My thanks to all participants and the judges for their hard work, and our congratulations to Scatr on winning the grand prize! This technology will prevent overdose and help save lives,” said the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health.
A total of 24 applicants had participated in the Challenge, and the entries were evaluated by an independent judging panel. Scatr’s technology can accurately test drugs in up to 60 seconds without destroying the sample. In addition, it offers unique and useful features for people who use drugs and health workers, including a feature that issues alerts for unknown substances and an easy-to-understand visual of the drug’s composition, as well as the capacity for the person using the service to remain anonymous.