US Food and Drug Administration to Develop Mobile Alert App

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing an app for mobile devices in the hopes of avoiding what happened during the H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak in 2009. During that outbreak, the experimental drug Peramavir was utilized —the FDA had issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the drug at the time due to its effectiveness against the H1N1 virus. One downside of that authorization was the fact that healthcare professionals only had desktop computers with which to report any adverse reactions to the drug, as well as receiving vital communications back from the FDA.

Inefficient and slow, 10 % or more of adverse reactions went unreported during that outbreak. And while several apps were launched during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, there was no single source of reliable information that could be counted on to provide official updates.

In response to this health disaster communication breakdown, the FDA has decided to authorize the development of an app to help facilitate the flow of information to healthcare professionals and the general public. The mobile alert system would operate like the Federal Communications Commission’s PLAN system, which texts its users about looming disasters.

The drawbacks of such a system became evident last month, though, when Verizon’s Commercial Mobile Alert System, or CMAS, erroneously alerted customers in New Jersey to “take shelter now” due to a civil emergency, causing a widespread panic in the area.

What the FDA is looking for in an app is a mobile alert system that will assist public health officials to issue warnings efficiently and quickly, and hopefully avoid issues that happened in past pandemic situations. Whichever vendor is selected by the FDA to complete the app will have one year from the date of selection to do so. The app will be named Real-Time Application for Portable Interactive Devices, or RAPID, and will work on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones, with plans for a tablet adaptation to follow.

For more information about RAPID, visit: