New funding for Curebase and Sidekick Health, Talkspace earnings, and Cerebral setbacks

You’re reading the web edition of STAT Health Tech, our guide to how tech is transforming the life sciences. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday. 

Telehealth abortion providers expect an uptick 

Clinics prescribing abortion medication online are expecting a surge if the Supreme Court repeals Roe v. Wade, as  a leaked draft opinion released this week suggests it will. These clinics would only be able to operate in states where abortion — and telemedicine prescription for the medication — remains legal. That means patients in more restrictive states will have to cross state lines to access virtual care.

advertisement

Though mainstream direct-to-consumer telehealth companies focused on reproductive care like Nurx do not prescribe abortion pills, a handful of smaller providers like Hey Jane and Choix will after a virtual consultation. And the pills can now be mailed to patients instead of largely only being dispensed at brick-and-mortar clinics, following a recent regulatory change.

“People hearing that Roe v Wade is overturned, a lot of people will think abortion is illegal in this country,” said Cindy Adam, a nurse practitioner and CEO of Choix, which offers telemedicine abortion services. “We get calls every day asking, ‘Are the services real?” Our colleague Olivia Goldhill has more.

advertisement

Cerebral dials back ADHD care amid reported federal investigation

Online mental health care provider Cerebral announced Wednesday it was winding down its ADHD care, which includes virtually prescribing and delivering controlled substances like Adderall. The news followed the Wall Street Journal’s report earlier this week that online pharmacy Truepill was suspending fulfillment of certain controlled substances like Adderall from partners including Cerebral. Now, the Drug Enforcement Administration is reportedly investigating the company for issues with provider licensing and duplicate patient accounts, Business Insider reports.

They’re the latest in a string of high profile setbacks for telehealth providers that offer online prescribing and drug delivery, and point to larger questions about balancing telehealth’s benefits with the potential for abuse, experts told Mohana.

Super Series B investments of the week

Curebase, one of many new companies taking advantage of new enthusiasm for innovation in clinical trials, announced it had raised a $40 million Series B round led by Industry VenturesTom Lemberg, the company’s founder and CEO, told STAT that Curebase will use the funds to build out its services to make them more attractive to pharma partners, including its new strategic investor Gilead Sciences.

Curebase has become one of the go-to providers used by digital health companies hoping to produce evidence to support FDA submissions and cost effectiveness research, including work with Blue Note Therapeutics on treatments for cancer-related distress, AppliedVR’s chronic pain therapeutics, and metaMe, whose IBS treatment resulted in Curebase’s first FDA clearance. Curebase also has a deal with the Digital Therapeutics Alliance to help develop a forthcoming paper on best practices for clinical trials in the space.

Meanwhile, Sidekick Health, which makes digital therapeutics that help manage chronic conditions, announced a $55 million Series B round led by Novator Ventures. Sidekick has largely focused on software used alongside pharma products, including collaborations with Pfizer, Bayer, and Lilly.

Where many early stage digital therapeutics firms have struggled with business models, Sidekick co-founder and CEO Tryggvi Thorgeirsson said the company has benefitted from hitching its balance sheet to pharma deals. “This is really just us reading the market dynamics,” he said. “In five years, it’s going to be prescription digital therapeutics, mostly with payer reimbursement, and that’s going to be the main revenue. We’re just not there yet.”

Speaking of DTx and pharma deals

Biogen announced it would pay MedRhythms $3 million up front as the companies agree to develop and commercialize an investigational digital therapeutic which uses music and software to target walking problems in people with multiple sclerosis. The deal could be worth north of $100 million plus royalties to MedRhythms, depending on meeting development milestones.

Talkspace persists

Talkspace on Tuesday reported its Q1 results, which showed, well, not very much beyond being able to to cut ad spending without totally annihilating its direct-to-consumer business. Despite some seemingly positive updates on longer-term initiatives meant to get the company on track, the numbers don’t show much movement.

If you haven’t been following along at home — and why wouldn’t you be? — Talkspace is in the midst of a messy, plodding transition as it seeks to simultaneously hire a new C-suite while shifting its traditionally direct-to-consumer business toward more business and health plan sales. Analysts were mixed on how that progress is going, with Cowen seeing cause for optimism in the company’s cash-focused discipline and SVB Securities maintaining a skeptical outlook during the company’s turnaround efforts.

One point from the investor call worth considering: As Talkspace tries to stabilize the business and preserve cash, new competitors are cropping up and existing rivals are raising (and spending) huge sums to fuel growth. Even if there’s an imperative to show progress toward profitability, is Talkspace playing to win? Or to survive?

Who is this unnamed customer?

Rockley Photonics announced “it has shipped its VitalSpex Pro technology for the non-invasive measurement of alcohol, glucose, and lactate to an early-access, tier-1 consumer wearables customer.” Apple is by far the company’s most important client, so the news could augur good things for the long-rumored Apple Watch with glucose measuring capabilities.

What we’re reading

  • Higher-ups knew about PillPack’s overbilling and over dispensing insulin but dismissed concerns, Axios
  • A data broker is selling location data for people who go to abortion clinics, Motherboard
  • Congress moves toward reforming FDA accelerated approvals, but with pharma-friendly concessions, STAT
Source: STAT