May 21, 2024

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Cerebral to stop prescribing most controlled substances

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Cerebral will stop prescribing most controlled substances to new and existing patients, the embattled digital mental health company confirmed to Insider

According to an email sent to staff on Monday, Cerebral CEO Kyle Robertson said the company would halt prescriptions of controlled substances like Adderall and Xanax for new patients starting May 20 and for existing patients starting October 15. 

“This decision was spearheaded by our clinical and regulatory teams, and we will be releasing more details about how we will do this safely and in the best interests of our patients and clinicians later this week,” Cerebral said in a statement to Insider.

The company will continue to prescribe medications to treat opioid use disorder, since those treatment options can be difficult to access, according to Insider‘s reporting. Cerebral announced its opioid treatment program in March. 

Earlier this month, Cerebral paused prescriptions of controlled substances for new patients and instituted new safety and quality initiatives, like more assessment capabilities, hiring more psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners, and creating a review committee to examine its paid social advertising.

WHY IT MATTERS

Cerebral has faced increasing scrutiny over its prescribing practices over the past several months. The company is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Insider has also reported the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is looking into the mental health startup.

A former Cerebral executive, Matthew Truebe, has sued the company, alleging he was fired after voicing concerns about unethical prescribing practices and patient safety issues.

A Bloomberg Businessweek investigation from March included interviews from Cerebral employees who said they were pushed to prescribe at the expense of patient care. 

THE LARGER TREND

According to the email viewed by Insider, Cerebral is making the move to halt prescriptions because patients can now return to hybrid or in-person care. The company began the prescriptions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as the DEA suspended rules that required in-person evaluations for controlled substance prescriptions.

The company has defended its prescribing practices in the past. At the American Telemedicine Association Association’s Annual Conference & Expo earlier this month, Cerebral Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Mou stood by their quality standards, but admitted mistakes had been made in areas like marketing and social media campaigns that targeted young consumers. 

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