How this telehealth startup aims to fight mental illness with ketamine treatment
Telehealth company Nue Life Health promotes itself as a mental wellness platform, but offers something different from most: ketamine therapy.
Its founders describe the startup as “therapy agnostic” and, although it offers ketamine treatments, it also offers an interactive app, integration with wearable technologies like Apple and WHOOP, and music therapy, coaching groups. health and peer support.
The company hopes to leverage medical and digital technologies to take a holistic, integrated approach to care and tackle the root causes of mental illness. The company currently has five medical providers, two health coaches and a dozen mental health counselors.
Today, many doctors may think that existing therapeutic treatments for mental health are neither effective nor ethical, Juan Pablo Cappello, CEO and co-founder of Nue Life Health, told Fierce Healthcare. Some antidepressants, for example, may only mask symptoms but not treat potential underlying trauma.
The dominant mental health paradigm is broken, according to the Nue Life team, and prescribing more drugs is not the solution.
Psychedelic drugs like ketamine may be a booming answer. The schedule III drug ketamine has been shown to trigger the growth of new neurological connections in the brain, relieving symptoms of depression in just a few hours.
So, Nue Life wants to find the lowest dose needed to reset harmful thoughts in patients. It’s like an “ego-control-alt-delete,” as Cappello put it. But if other drugs, such as MDMA or psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, were approved, Nue Life would consider using them as well, he said.
“Ketamine is just a tool; it’s not the end of the game, ”Cappello said.
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Patients interested in Nue Life begin with a discovery call and are encouraged to download the company’s interactive app. On the platform, they can carry out a medical consultation and, if necessary, be prescribed ketamine by the company’s approved practitioners.
Ketamine treatments come in a lozenge form, which offers a low dose that puts the patient in a meditative, lucid and dreamlike state that they can remember, Cappello said.
“Maybe that’s all we need to be able to listen to each other and develop our own story in therapy,” he said.
In this state, patients can participate in desensitization and reprocessing therapy through music or eye movements and also speak into the app, which records their voice notes. This experience summary is then available as a sort of diary entry for patients to view and reprocess, explained Kazi Zayn Hassan, MD, chief medical officer and co-founder of Nue Life.
Patients will be invited to participate in groups where they can learn from their peers and incorporate their own session ideas in a more meaningful way into their lives.
Using data from 1,350 patients from Hassan’s private ketamine therapy practice, Nue Life found that half of patients with moderate to severe depression had more than 50% improvement in their symptoms after treatment with three-dose ketamine. This response rate improved to 64% in patients with depression with six-dose treatment. Among patients with moderate to severe anxiety, more than half of the patients reported improvement of more than 50% after six doses of treatment.
Early intervention with ketamine treatment is essential, Hassan said. Those looking for him are “the most desperate” of those living with mental illness, he said, adding that many of his own patients are resistant to treatment, meaning they have not been successful. to improve with two sets of antidepressants.
“We want to take our therapy higher up the scale so that people don’t have to suffer that long,” he said.
Nue Life expects to work with hundreds of practitioners in as many states as possible to maximize access to therapy. Ultimately, Nue Life says some providers will have the option of maintaining their own private practice while working with the company’s patients, the company told Fierce Healthcare.
Due to the delay in reimbursement opportunities in this space, Nue Life is a cash-based practice – to facilitate care “without the constraints of insurance protocols”. The company said patients can try to submit a claim to their insurer for possible reimbursement of professional fees. One month of care, which includes six sessions of ketamine and coaching, costs $ 1,250, the company said; four months of treatment, with 18 sessions of ketamine, costs $ 2,750.