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Anti-insomnia app gets FDA approval, but costs $899

We’ve recently seen a prescription-only PTSD Apple Watch app get FDA approval. The same has now happened for an iPhone-based anti-insomnia app – but it costs a cool $899!

The coronavirus crisis has accelerated work on app-based treatments for mental health conditions which have previously required prescription medications and/or in-person therapy sessions …

Business Insider reports.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the US mental-health crisis, with apps like Calm and Headspace booming as people try to cope.

Now, a new cohort of apps are working to directly treat mental illness, rather than just help people get by.
Three such companies told Business Insider their programs can drive similar results as medication, and said they believe in-person therapy is outdated.

The Food and Drug Administration has in recent months moved to help these mental-health apps become more available.

Experts at the FDA, National Institute of Mental Health, and American Psychiatric Association told Business Insider that evidence indicates the apps work, and that regulators are frantically playing catch up.

COVID has increased the prevalence of mental illness symptoms, and driven demand for treatments which were struggling to keep pace even before the lockdowns.

US adults have shown three times as many symptoms of depression during the pandemic than the same period in 2019, researchers at Boston University found in September […]

Healthcare providers have also struggled to keep pace with the soaring rates of mental illness for years, with therapists oversubscribed and new antidepressants showing little improvement on their predecessors.

Apps can help, using an approach known as CBT.

Click Therapeutics, Pear Therapeutics, and Orexo are three companies currently leading the field in the digital-health space. All have developed software to treat mental illness with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Broadly, CBT helps people understand why they think and act the way they do, and helps them manage and change those habits through reflexive tasks.

But while the cost of app-based treatment compares favorably to conventional methods, it’s still not cheap. That’s because they can still involve a doctor monitoring the patient’s progress and symptoms, as is the case for the anti-insomnia app.

Pear is behind Somryst, the first app approved by the Food and Drug Administration to use CBT to treat insomnia. A nine-week course of treatment using Somryst costs $899.

However, it’s hoped that apps will make treatment significantly more accessible. The lengthy report, which is worth reading in full, says that 60% of adults diagnosed with a mental illness received no treatment, and many others don’t seek help in the first place, so their conditions go undiagnosed.

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