Development of the Pear-006 digital therapeutic is a joint collaboration with Novartis.

Pear Therapeutics' latest study will explore digital treatment for MS patients with depressive symptoms

By Dave Muoio
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Editor's Note: An original headline for this story contained an error, and has since been corrected.

Boston- and San Francisco-based Pear Therapeutics, maker of prescription digital therapeutics for substance abuse, has kicked off a feasibility study for Pear-006, an in-development treatment for depressive symptoms in those with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Pear Therapeutics has been developing Pear-006 in conjunction with Novartis as per an agreement between the two companies announced early last year (which also applied to the development of another treatment for schizophrenia). The therapeutic is intended to be used alongside others targeting the MS itself, according to the announcement.

“Digital therapies will play an important role in treating patients with MS and are part of our commitment to further strengthening Novartis’ leadership in this area,” said Ricardo Dolmetsch, Global Head of Neuroscience at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. “Pear-006 has the potential to change how we treat these patients and initiation of this trial is an important first step in this journey.”

Officially begun on Friday, the feasibility trial was designed with “extensive input from people with MS, scientists and neurologists,” and will be focused on clinical use of the new treatment, according to the announcement. The company said it will also be conducting additional studies relating to patient engagement, dosing and preliminary efficacy.

WHY IT MATTERS

Depression symptoms are present in roughly a third to half of those with MS, and have a substantial impact on these patients’ quality of life.

“Clinical depression caused by MS is the single most dangerous (or harmful) and impairing aspect of this autoimmune disease, while simultaneously being the single most treatable if diagnosed and treated properly,” Dr. Adam Kaplin, of the department of psychiatry and neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in the announcement. “With a lifetime prevalence of 50-60% and an incidence of 25%, depression, is as common as it is disabling.”

Digital therapeutics themselves are still quite novel. With few digital prescription treatments on the market so far, successes resulting from the Pear-Novartis partnership will likely serve as a roadmap for therapeutics makers and pharmas eyeing the space.

WHAT’S THE TREND

Since aligning its ship with Novartis, Pear has relied on the pharmaceutical company during the launches of its reSET and reSET-O products for substance and opioid abuse treatment. The company also raked in $64 million earlier this year during a funding round led by Temasek.

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