With $1.7M NIDA grant, emocha will evaluate its app for treating opioid addiction

By Jonah Comstock
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Baltimore-based emocha Mobile Health has been awarded a $1.7 million Fast Track Small Business Innovation Research award by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The company will use the grant for a feasibility study of its digital direct observation therapy tech.

Emocha is an acronym for “electronic mobile comprehensive health application”. The company has been developing an app for therapies where adherence is so important that the standard of care is for doctors to watch the patient taking each dose. For instance, they ran a pilot with the City of Baltimore focused on patients with tuberculosis in 2014. With the app, that observation can be done electronically via asynchronous video instead.

For this new project, emocha will work with University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center on a project related to opioid addiction recovery. Patients in the initiation phase of buprenorphine treatment will use the app in an in-office setting, though the company says home use is a natural next step.

“This project with emocha will allow us as clinicians and researchers to examine a new platform that has potential to expand our medicine bag with a technological aid that helps patients achieve a successful recovery,” Dr. Jeffrey Samet, chief of general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center, said in a statement.

The study will see what the app’s effect is on adherence, retention in care, and whether patients avoid illicit opioids or fall off the wagon.

The technology is starting to accrue some efficacy data. A study conducted recently at Johns Hopkins for TB, showed that patients achieved 92 percent average adherence to medication calculated on a dose-by-dose basis. The cost savings was calculated at more than $1,400 per patient over six months.