Jun 20, 2020 - Health

FDA approves first video game therapeutic

This image shows a person holding an iPad with the word "Endeavor" on it

This is now an FDA-approved therapeutic. Photo courtesy of Akili

The FDA this week approved a video game as a prescribable therapeutic for kids with ADHD.

Why it matters: The move marks the first time a video game can be legally marketed as a therapy for a health condition, and it shows the gradual progress of the wider field of digital therapeutics.

What's happening: The game, called EndeavorRx and developed by Akili Interactive Labs, rewards players with stars for navigating a fantasy landscape and finishing tasks.

  • The game is meant to act as a delivery system for algorithms that can strengthen neural networks in the brain connected to ADHD, according to reporting by STAT.
  • While Akili has made the game available for the past few months for free to eligible children, the FDA's decision means that physicians can now prescribe it, and insurers may cover it.

Context: The market for digital therapeutics — which range from games like EndeavorRx to apps focusing on addiction — has been growing in recent years. The pandemic gave the industry a push, as the lockdown led the FDA to relax regulations on a range of mental health and telemedicine apps.

  • "We are seeing a 20% to 30% growth of people seeking help on anxiety and depression during the pandemic," says Adnan Asar, CEO of Lucid Lane, a digital health platform.

My thought bubble: I'm looking forward to the day when I can get Axios' health insurer to cover NBA 2K20.

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