A new digital health startup out of San Francisco called Kick Health is looking to address social anxiety through its telehealth platform, which gives users access to prescription beta-blocker propranolol.
The platform, which officially launched this morning, will connect users to board-certified doctors for short asynchronous remote visits. Once the survey and visit is reviewed by a doctor, the clinician will prescribe the propranolol, and the medication can be sent to the customer’s home.
The startup will package the medication in small “matchbox-sized” containers so the user can keep the tablets in their pocket.
The company said the medication’s ability to block the effects of norepinephrine, or adrenaline, can prevent common symptoms of anxiety like a racing heart, trembling hands and a shaky voice.
“Beta-blockers have been scientifically shown to minimize the shakiness, sweaty palms, and rapid heartbeat many of us experience before a big moment,” Dr. Alex Dimitriu, Kick’s medical advisor, said in a statement.
According to the Mayo Clinic propranolol is typically used to treat high blood pressure, severe chest pain, migraine headaches and irregular heart beats. The medication impacts the nerve impulse in certain parts of the body and can slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure, according to the clinic.
However, beta blockers are sometimes used to treat symptoms of social anxiety. The Mayo Clinic notes the medication “may work best when used infrequently to control symptoms for a particular situation.”
Why it matters
Social anxiety is a common condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some studies suggest that 7 percent of the population have the condition. But that number doesn’t include normal performance or situational anxiety.
Kick Health pitches this as a service that can address the needs of busy people. The company positions itself as an alternative to other anxiety medications like Xanax, noting that “beta-blockers aren’t a scheduled drug with potential for abuse or dependence.”
What's the trend
Online telemedicine services have become increasingly popular to treat sexual health and cosmetic conditions, like baldness or dry skin. Both Roman and Hims have come on the market to target men’s health. More recently the makers of Hims launched Hers, which offers telemedicine services for women’s sexual health.
Much like these services, Kick Health offers their medication in discrete packages.