Over the last decade, the addiction and mental health space has becoming increasingly digital – so much so that the first prescription digital therapeutic, Pear’s ReSET, scored FDA clearance nearly three years ago. While more and more players begin to join the so-called "DTx" space, the technology is yet to hit the mainstream radar, but a new coalition is looking to change that.
A list of high-profile players in the addiction and recovery space, including Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., 1995-2010, Pear Therapeutic, Shatterproof, and others in the space have come together to form the Recovery Access Coalition, which aims to advocate for access to prescription digital therapeutics.
“The goal of any collation is to try to coalesce like-minded partners of stakeholders in achieving a common goal,” Kennedy, who also founded the mental health and addiction nonprofit Kennedy Forum, told MobiHealthNews. "In this case, the goal is to introduce the value of digital therapeutics to the outside world, because, if you haven’t been exposed to what they are all about, you have no appreciation for the value that they can bring to helping us treat many intractable chronic diseases.”
The organization is looking to advocate for FDA-cleared digital therapeutics to be covered by Medicare on the federal level and Medicaid on the state level. Reimbursement has historically been a hurdle for digital health. But Kennedy argues that digital tools have the ability to demonstrate outcomes.
“They have the ability of tracking the data in very measurable ways. So the value, in a world where payers loathe to reimburse for new therapies, these therapies have what the insurance world often complains about not having enough of – and that is evidence,” he said.
This new coalition comes at a time when more and more healthcare providers are turning to digital, as a way to reach patients during the midst of a global pandemic. Kennedy said that, while the virus has put pressure on the need for digital, the need was there even before the coronavirus.
“These technologies enjoy something that many mental health therapies have not enjoyed, because of the lack of scale or resources, and that is just by virtue of the fact that mental health and addiction research has really lagged behind all other research. But the value of digital therapeutics is that our clinical trials really cost very little in the type of instruction and financing necessary to bring validation to other therapies,” he said.
Digital therapeutics geared towards treating mental health have enjoyed lax restrictions during the national state of emergency due to the coronavirus. In fact, Pear released its new product for treating schizophrenia during this time. However, these new loosened regulations are temporary.
The organization is now trying to rally individuals to take steps to help expand access in the future. Namely, Kennedy said that it is urging people to email congress, email Medicaid and sign a petition supporting the tools.
This isn’t the first organization centered on DTx. In fact, in 2017 the Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA) formed with some of the biggest names in the industry signing on, including Akili, Omada Health and Voluntis.
However, this latest coalition has a narrower focus specifically looking at addiction. As these efforts progress, Kennedy said he’s looking to put his former political experience to work organizing these efforts.
“Digital therapeutics is a tested, evidence-based therapy that can revolutionize the treatment of these illnesses,” Kennedy said. “This is about announcing a campaign. You know I am all about campaign … I’ve ran many campaigns in my own life. This is the way our democracy works, you need to organize, coalesce, build consensus and then get people to act, and that’s what Recovery Access Coalition helps us to do.