The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved the first mobile app to help treat substance abuse.
The mobile app is developed by a start-up called Pear Therapeutics, whose core mission is to focus “on the development of prescription digital therapeutics to treat diseases with high unmet medical need”.
The mobile app is designed to treat abuse of alcohol, cocaine and stimulant medications. The FDA states, however, that the mobile app is not meant to treat opioid dependence. Pear Therapeutics uses a digital form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), also known as talk therapy. The FDA states that the is designed to “increase abstinence from substance abuse and increase intention in outpatient therapy programs”. Studies show that CBT is effective for substance abuse disorders, and that it can even be administered online, either via a desktop or mobile app.
With substance abuse and drug-related deaths increasing since 2000, a number of health start-ups similar to Pear Therapeutics have recently been on the rise as well. Some start-ups focus on replacing drug therapies, whereas others aim to help improve the likelihood that patients take their medications. A major advantage of such start-ups is that a software can help treat an individual’s health, without incurring the costs and side effects of medical treatment.
The FDA reviewed the results of a clinical trial involving 399 patients over the span of 12 weeks. The FDA has found that among those who used the app, 40.3% were able to abstain themselves from consuming alcohol, cocaine or any other stimulant medication. The FDA has declared that the results were “statistically significant” compared to the 17.6% of those who also abstained themselves, but did not use the mobile app.
Pear Therapeutics’ mobile app is not approved yet to treat opioid dependence, but CEO Corey McCann states that the start-up is currently developing a version that is under submission. This version of the software is designed to be use along with opioid replacement therapies.