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Digital Therapeutics Specifically Targeting Panic Attacks and PTSD

Published on:
February 24, 2022

As a teenager, I recall the dreaded experience of what felt like I was surely dying. Or so, I thought at the time. In fact, I later learned that it was my first panic attack. Panic disorder is a debilitating condition that stops individuals from work and life, and the NIMH says an estimated 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives.  

My experience only made me more excited to learn about interventions supporting people struggling with panic attacks and PTSD. GDBHT partner Freespira is the first FDA-cleared digital therapeutic that significantly reduces or eliminates symptoms of panic attacks, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in only 28 days. 

As a refresher, digital therapeutics are a non-drug alternative to treat, manage, and prevent various disorders. Some digital therapeutic companies cover a broad spectrum of conditions. However, others choose to focus on specific conditions. Those digital therapeutic companies which pursue a narrowed focus conduct deep dives into research on clinical outcomes, cost savings, and overall impact for a specific condition.

Those digital therapeutic companies which pursue a narrowed focus conduct deep dives into research on clinical outcomes, cost savings, and overall impact for a specific condition.

This week, I’m joined by Freespira’s Chief Clinical Officer, Bob Cuyler, PhD, to discuss this new digital therapeutic treatment in the blog this week: 

Freespira has the first FDA-cleared digital therapeutic to significantly reduce or eliminate panic attacks, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. You have some exciting study outcomes with partners like Highmark. Tell us about it.

Freespira collaborated with Highmark Health and Allegheny Health Network on a study of patients diagnosed with panic disorder (Kaplan et al., 2020). Researchers measured clinical outcomes and cost reductions over a full year following treatment with Freespira and the results were notable. 

In terms of outcomes, 91% of patients reported significantly fewer symptoms at the one-year mark, and 68% were in remission as measured by the Panic Disorder Severity Scale (PDSS). These long-lasting results also contributed to cost savings. Overall medical costs were down 35%, pharmacy costs dropped 68%, and emergency department costs were 65% lower. 

Another Freespira client is a managed Medicaid plan. In less than 12 months, the plan is seeing positive clinical and financial results. Of the patients treated with Freespira, 70% have achieved clinically significant reductions in their panic disorder and PTSD symptoms after the 28-day treatment – an outcome that compares favorably with traditional treatment via medication or psychotherapy. Early data point to a nearly 40% reduction in medical costs, which we expect will improve further when measured a full 12 months after treatment. Both clinical studies and real-world results are vitally important when health plans and providers evaluate digital therapeutic treatments as part of their behavioral health strategies. 

Both clinical studies and real-world results are vitally important when health plans and providers evaluate digital therapeutic treatments as part of their behavioral health strategies

It’s great when research demonstrates impact, but the treatment has to work in real life, too. Freespira has shown benefit in both in studies and everyday practice, which is contributing to our growing adoption. 

Freespira does a lot of work with the Veterans Administration. How are you supporting veterans to reduce or eliminate panic attacks and PTSD symptoms?

Yes, veterans are very important to us. Freespira is available through Veterans Healthcare Administration benefits and as you might expect, the need is high. An estimated 11-20% of veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD (U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs) while more than 8% meet the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder (Gros et al., 2011). 

In trying to treat these conditions, veterans face challenges ranging from transportation for  appointments to finding qualified providers nearby to feeling stigma around behavioral health issues. And psychotherapy and medication don’t work for everyone. Medication side effects and reluctance to take part in exposure-based therapies are significant hurdles. 

In a survey we conducted with veterans, we found that 77% expressed interest in trying a PTSD treatment that does not involve additional medications or long-term therapy. The Freespira alternative is a medication-free, at-home, adjunctive treatment. Our 28-day treatment is convenient. It’s supported by virtual coach visits and the equipment ships directly to patients. 

A study of PTSD patients at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System showed that 89% had a clinically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms after the 28-day Freespira treatment, with 50% of participants still in remission six months later (Ostacher et al., 2021). 

I am looking forward to the upcoming webinar with you. What can audience members expect to learn?

Yes, we're excited to have you moderating a panel discussion on Mar. 1, 2022: “An Rx for Behavioral Health Equity—Digital Therapeutics.” 

As most of us know, the pandemic has affected mental health and changed the ways patients receive care. The need for new, accessible behavioral health solutions has ramped up significantly, and digital therapeutic treatments help address critical gaps. 

We’ll discuss how to evaluate and deploy digital therapeutic treatment solutions, which transcend common treatment barriers while effectively addressing access, adherence and symptom management.

Attendees will learn about five key characteristics of digital therapeutic adoption: 

  1. Does the digital therapeutic treatment have regulatory approval?
  2. Are there peer-reviewed clinical studies on the solution?
  3. Do the studies and other data show improved health outcomes?
  4. Can the digital therapeutic help reduce total costs of care?
  5. Does the solution work in the real world?

AHIP, the national trade association representing the health insurance community, is co-sponsoring this timely and fascinating conversation. We invite your readers to register for the webinar on the AHIP site with this link

 

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