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After getting FDA clearance for video game therapeutic, Akili faces next level: insurance coverage

A year after getting FDA clearance for its video game treatment for ADHD, Akili Interactive CEO Eddie Martucci said he’s happy with the early response from doctors and patients. But the company still faces one more boss : getting insurers to cover it. 

The Boston-based digital therapeutics startup recently raised $160 million in equity and debt, and the company is planning a bigger rollout of its first product, EndeavorRx, since it got FDA clearance in June. Players navigate themed levels, such as frozen or tropical planets, with their spaceship and collect targets, with the game becoming more challenging as their skill improves.

The game-based treatment is intended to improve attention in kids with ADHD, but it’s not cleared to be used on its own or a substitute for medication. It’s designed to be used for three months, costing $150 per month. 

But its digital therapeutic isn’t yet covered by insurance, an important factor, given the cost. Martucci chalked it up to a new category of treatments that everyone, including insurers, is learning how to navigate.  They’re also looking to see real world data on how effective a treatment is, and if people are willing to use it. 

“A lot of times with innovative treatments, payers and plans want to see that there is actually real world use and demand. Sometimes that’s really hard in niche markets,” he said. “I don’t see that being an issue for EndeavorRx; we’ve already seen intense demand in the marketplace, and this is a patient population that is frankly very frustrated with their current options.”  

Akili just starting ramping up efforts for a bigger rollout of its treatment, after a more limited rollout late last year. The company didn’t share how many users it has yet.

We wanted to keep numbers limited to test and iterate because there’s never been a prescription product before like this,” he said. 

Getting FDA clearance was a big milestone in winning over physicians. Martucci also said it helped to make it clear in the label who the product was designed for — making it clear that the software was designed to help kids who struggled with attention, but would not affect hyperactivity.

“Doctors are very protective of their patients, as they should be. This is a marketplace where there has been a lot of junk on the market previously or people just don’t know what to trust,” he said. “Doctors are very cautious of that but when they see the data, we see doctors are generally very receptive to prescribing this for their patients.” 

In total, Akili raised $110 million in equity led by Neuberger Berman Funds and closed a $50 million credit facility with Silicon Valley Bank.

It also plans to use some of the funds to develop new treatments. The company has been testing its core technology to see if it can help with other cognitive issues, such as cognitive dysfunction related to depression or multiple sclerosis. While the concept is similar, the end game would likely be packaged differently than its current game.

Martucci also hinted at future projects to come, noting that the technology behind Endeavor was developed close to 10 years ago.

We’re looking at the next generation,” he said. “We’re excited by technologies that are going to grab people’s imaginations.” 

Photo credit: Akili Interactive

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