Scouting Report-NUE Life Health: Taking Ketamine from Party Drug to Effective Depression Treatment
NUE Life Health, a telemental wellness platform, raised $3.3 M in funding from investors including Jack Abraham, Shervin Pishevar, Martin Varsavsky, Jon Oringer, James Bailey, and Christina Getty. Founded in Miami, NUE Life uses the oral form of ketamine, Esketamine which was approved by the FDA in March and is given as a nasal spray. NUE Life has operations in California, Texas, and Florida and aims to expand its services with the new funding.
Although ketamine has been associated with being a “party drug” and was once used mainly as an anesthetic on battlefields and in operating rooms, it may hold promise for those who have not had success on other medications.
While researchers don’t know exactly how it works, “a leading theory proposes that it stimulates regrowth of synapses (connections between neurons), effectively rewiring the brain.”
The company believes ketamine will strengthen the neural connections weakened by chronic stress and depression thus allowing newer connections to form.
Because ketamine uses a new mechanism to deliver its antidepressant effects, it may be able to offer help for those people whose depression has resisted previous interventions.
Christina Getty, a co-founder, and investor in NUE Life Health stated that with approximately 20% of women in the U.S. on antidepressants and over 20 veterans a day committing suicide, they “felt compelled to launch a different kind of mental wellness company.” NUE Life offers treatment for major depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder. Ketamine therapy itself is unique to the individual as there are variations in experiences, duration, absorbability, and dosage. NUE Life offers three different programs: Basic, Stabilize or Complete which offers a differing number of “experiences” (dosage). On their website, NUE Life listed their pricing which ranges from $850 for the Basic program to $2,750 for the Complete program. Currently, insurance does not cover ketamine-assisted therapy with NUE Life.
While COVID-19 gave rise to many telemental health platforms, NUE Life is offering at-home ketamine therapy combined with Artificial Intelligence recommended music therapy and treatment plan(s). According to an article in Psychedelic Spotlight, patients who are open to music therapy are more likely to experience lesser symptoms of depression than those who are not open to music therapy. According to the company, NUE Life “creates a detailed ‘knowledge graph’ of the patient which allows it to understand everything about them in order to diagnose and treat their mental health condition, using an approach called integrated psychiatry.” NUE Life most often ends up recommending the Stabilize program. This program contains 6 experiences that NUE Life suggests be taken twice per week over a period of 3 weeks. Depending on the patient’s needs, the program can assist patients with up to 18 experiences over 3 months. According to a report in the Harvard Health Blog, “people who experience some relief from depression within one to three ketamine treatments are probably likely to extend these positive effects if the treatment is repeated several more times”. However, the blog goes on to say there are now standard dosage guidelines and “the subsequent sessions may help prolong the effect of ketamine, rather than achieving further dramatic relief of symptoms.” The ketamine tablet is to be administered orally after completing the initial screening and sitter agreement form. During the experience, patients are asked to fill out their “experience tracker” which is followed up with NUE Life’s Medical Director. The platform creates the above mentioned Knowledge Graph that illustrates the patient’s mental health condition, diagnosis, and ongoing treatments. The HIPAA compliant platform will also provide the patients access to a community where they can resume their treatment even after completing the program.
The Big Picture:
Currently, ketamine-assisted therapy is the fastest-acting antidepressant for major depression. Focused on providing holistic mental wellness services, NUE Life taps into three key areas “mind, body, and lifestyle” which are essential for mental health wellbeing in the long run. NUE Life offers sustainable relief from mental health conditions as it disrupts negative thought patterns and guides patients into forming healthier neural connections. Patients are able to access NUE Life from the comfort of their homes and are able to partake in their daily activities, as there are no long-term side effects from ketamine. The traditional therapy approaches often risk poor compliance and outcomes leading to treatment-resistant depression (TRD). According to BMC Psychiatry, treatment resistance occurs commonly in up to 30% of those treated for major depressive disorder. In addition, the Society of Biological Psychiatry, reports that TRD is relatively common where at least 50-60% of the patients report poor health outcomes. As there is an existing gap in research surrounding the biology of depression, the traditional treatments haven’t proven to be very effective. A patient’s health status, age, and gender are factors associated with the probability of TRD, where women and senior citizens experience TRD at higher rates. NUE Life has the potential to help alleviate the mental health burdens on vulnerable populations by offering a sustainable and quick treatment plan.