Mental-Health Startup Cerebral Tells Nurses to Stop New ADHD Prescriptions
(Bloomberg) -- Cerebral, the mental health-care startup, will stop writing new prescriptions for controlled substances that treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, it has told employees in a memo.
“Cerebral clinicians will pause the practice of prescribing controlled substances as a treatment for ADHD such as Adderall and Ritalin for new patients, effective Monday, May 9,” CEO Kyle Robertson wrote in the memo, which has also been published online. “Over the course of the next several months, existing patients will continue receiving their clinically appropriate, prescribed medications and the company will be adding additional tools for clinicians to further safeguard this practice.”
Cerebral is part of a growing industry of mental telehealth companies that have flourished since federal regulators lifted pre-pandemic restrictions that had required patients to visit clinicians in person before getting certain controlled prescriptions. The companies employ nurse practitioners to write prescriptions after online sessions with patients.
In addition to pausing the prescribing of Adderall and Ritalin for new patients, Cerebral said it would begin administering urine drug screens and offer additional patient questionnaire screenings. Cerebral is also changing its marketing practices; the company will submit all social-media advertisements to an internal clinical review committee.
Cerebral, which has been backed by investors including SoftBank, has been valued at $4.8 billion. Its announced changes follow criticism of its advertising and prescribing practices. In a Bloomberg Businessweek story that was published in March, dozens of the company’s clinicians and other staff expressed fears that the company was over-prescribing the amphetamines used to treat ADHD.
On April 27, Matthew Truebe, a former vice president for the company, filed a lawsuit that claimed Cerebral’s chief medical officer told employees his goal was to prescribe stimulants to 100% of Cerebral’s ADHD patients.
Truebe was further told by Robertson to devote zero percent of his resources to compliance issues and to focus instead on client “activation and retention,” the suit says. Truebe raised concerns about more than 2,000 duplicate shipping addresses in Cerebral’s patient database, including one potential case of prescription fraud, only to be told by Robertson that the issue was his “lowest priority,” the complaint says.
In a statement at the time, Cerebral said Truebe’s allegations were not true, adding: “We plan to vigorously defend ourselves against these false and unfounded allegations.”
Earlier this week, Truepill, an online pharmacy that sends prescriptions to Cerebral customers, said it would stop filling scripts for schedule II controlled substances, such as Adderall. “This temporary pause impacts less than 2% of total prescriptions written by Cerebral clinicians,” a Cerebral spokesman said.
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