Scouting Report-Clearing: Addressing Non-Addictive Pain Management
Clearing is developing a digital healthcare platform for chronic pain sufferers looking for non-opioid pain relief. According to Crunchbase News the New-York based company recently raised $20 million in a seed round led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Founders Fund with additional backing by Flatiron Health, Curology, Hims & Hers, Seamless, Grubhub, and Forward Health. With the funding, Clearing plans to address the chronic pain market’s shortage of pain specialists, by prescribing patients non-addictive treatment plans. As noted by CrunchBase, Clearing is moving the pain management market online and then combining clinician visits with a combination of affordable physical therapy and compound pharmacy programs. Clearing claims to already have 10,000 patients on their waiting list and the company hopes to expand its platform and work with sports teams and other medical professionals.
According to the CDC 1 in 5 or 50M Americans suffer from chronic pain, yet there are currently only 7,000 pain specialists in the U.S.
Chronic pain causes loss of productivity and costs America up to $635 million, a year according to American Health & Drug Benefits.
Although there were a number of root causes of the opioid epidemic, part of it can be attributed to the fact that prescribing opioids was cheaper than detailed pain management plans which require multiple visits and referrals
Approximately “70% of chronic pain sufferers reported an increase in chronic pain” during the pandemic due to disruptions in care and the need for non-addictive pain management plans.
According to the CEO and Founder, Avi Dorfman, each year an additional 2 million Americans are added to the roles of those with chronic pain and in need of pain management plans.. Clearing offers “stage one intervention” or holistic treatment plans with non-addictive elements which includes anti-inflammatory creams and at-home exercises. The ingredients in the topical pain relievers (creams) are FDA approved and the prescription strength can be adjusted according to the patient’s needs. Importantly, Clearing does not require insurance plans as their treatment plans are extremely cost effective and cost less than typical insurance copayments. According to the company, after completing a virtual consultation, patients are paired up with a pain management specialist who prescribes a comprehensive plan and follows up with the patients on a regular basis. The direct-to-consumer platform delivers their prescription right to the patient’s doorstep, eliminating the hassle of having to pick up prescriptions. One notable risk is that CEO and Founder, Avi Dorfman is currently in the midst of a jury trial to validate his status and ownership stake in Compass, a real estate brokerage platform. Given his role as CEO this could divert management attention and focus at Clearing as he prepares for and participates in the trial.
Currently, Clearing is the first digital platform to offer comprehensive pain management at a low price point. This is particularly important because the digital aspect of Clearing can make pain management accessible to millions of Americans, particularly the underresourced, who may currently lack health insurance. Clearing validates its treatment protocols through the use of a medical advisory board that has accumulated over 150 years of combined experiences and represents leading medical institutions such as Mass General, Johns Hopkins and Harvard. The company notes that the medical advisory board demonstrates a clear understanding of pain management and its members have authored over 465 peer-reviewed journals on chronic pain. The platform relies on self-assessment of the patient’s pain-level and symptoms. Moreover, given the role that patient self assessment plays in the Clearing platform it has the potential to alleviate some of the racial and gender bias patients often face when doctors conduct pain assessments. A number of studies have demonstrated that black patients are consistently undertreated for pain due to false beliefs held by doctors. In addition, though women are disproportionately affected by conditions that cause chronic pain, several studies have demonstrated that they are less likely to be properly diagnosed or receive proper pain management treatment than their male counterparts.
The Big Picture:
As noted above, chronic pain impacts the quality of life for over 50 million Americans and has been clinically linked to depression and anxiety and other behavioral health disorders. During the COVID pandemic where access to in-person care was difficult or impossible for many, access to medication and providers who could help alleviate this pain disappeared and the need for comprehensive pain management via telemedicine emerged. Clearing’s direct-to-consumer digital platform is less likely to be disrupted by external factors and can simultaneously help address the shortage of pain management specialists. In addition, many lack insurance or cannot afford the high costs of insurance deductibles or co-pays, Clearing’s low-cost direct model offers an affordable and efficient solution. Clearing aims to provide pain relief for millions of Americans without adding to their expenses. Moreover given the movement towards increased consumerism in healthcare, Clearing offers a straightforward platform allowing patients to self-assess their pain levels without having to get caught in the healthcare coverage/reimbursement maze. This should reduce barriers in accessing pain management treatment plans for people of color and women and result in improved care at lower costs.