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The next frontier of psychedelic therapy could be your couch

Ketamine therapy pioneer Field Trip is partnering with telehealth company Nue Life to bring psychedelic treatments into the home.

The next frontier of psychedelic therapy could be your couch
[Source Images: Getty]

Two companies working to bring ketamine therapy to patients with PTSD, depression, and other mental health conditions are teaming up to grow the reach of psychedelic-assisted mental health care. Field Trip, which has a network of clinics for ketamine-assisted therapy, now offers therapy via Nue Life, a telehealth mental wellness company launched in 2021.

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Two-year-old Field Trip, which went public on the Nasdaq last summer, has opened 11 clinics in North America, as well as one in Europe, built around the idea of providing a high-touch process around the ketamine therapy. Founder Ronan Levy said the partnership with Nue Life—which will allow for remote ketamine treatment in New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington State—is designed to increase access for patients who might benefit from the therapy.

“The challenge that we have at Field Trip, having a brick-and-mortar business, is for so many people who come to us, we can’t provide care to them,” he says. “Either they’re not in the geography of one of our clinics, or it sometimes is out of reach financially, because it’s time-intensive with a lot of professionals.”

Levy says the in-clinic therapy is $750 per session, in addition to $250 per hour for integration work with a therapist. For a standard four- to six-session treatment, patients typically spend between $3,000 and $5,000. Nue Life’s virtual version costs about $1,300 for a program that includes six ketamine experiences, group integration therapy, and aftercare.

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“We’ve always felt that we want to try to lower the cost of existing therapies by 60% to 70% while maintaining the standard of care by leveraging technology,” says Juan Pablo Cappello, cofounder and CEO of Nue Life, which has treated more than 4,000 patients since it launched last year with  $3.3 million in seed funding, bolstered last month by a $23 million Series A round. Through the company’s platform, patients can share feedback and insights with their clinician, and participate in virtual integration and health-coaching sessions.

Cappello notes that the remote approach doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone who might be intrigued by the treatment actually receives it. “We recognize that this isn’t an approach that works for everyone—we actually only write prescriptions for slightly under 25% of prospective patients,” he says.

After an initial screening, patients have a roughly 45-minute session with a clinician who determines whether the patient would benefit from the ketamine treatment. “In the course of that conversation, I’m always encouraging the team to think about who the patients are that we’re most confident we can help,” Cappello says. (Nue Life’s providers include nurse practitioners and physician assistants working with supervising physicians.)

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If the clinician decides to move forward with therapy, patients are prescribed and sent oral ketamine by Nue Life. For the duration of the trip, patients are required to have a physical companion who must complete an online training course in advance—and who can contact a nurse practitioner, if necessary, during the ketamine session. Nue Life chief medical officer and cofounder Dr. Kazi Hassan says the company collects safety data on each session. Afterward, patients have access to virtual integration groups led by licensed mental health counselors. If a patient wants one-on-one therapy, Nue Life will offer a reference.

Hassan says all of Nue Life’s “senior medical providers” have completed accredited continuing-medical-education training programs for ketamine therapy. Those staffers, in turn, have trained the company’s front-line clinicians, though he didn’t specify what that in-house training involves. (For comparison, the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which is championing research into MDMA as a psychedelic therapeutic, currently offers a 100-hour training program for health professionals who want to provide MDMA therapy after its anticipated approval by the FDA.)

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Despite ketamine therapy becoming more common, at-home treatments are still uncharted territory, and some researchers are wary of it. In addition, as Fast Company noted in a recent feature, the dosage of ketamine and number of sessions needed to adequately address treatment-resistant depression are not currently standardized.

Levy and Cappello see their partnership as setting an example of how to share best practices and insights about patient outcomes throughout the burgeoning industry, particularly as other psychedelic-assisted therapies—including MDMA and psilocybin—become available.

“As the industry develops, our unique ability to capture and track patient outcomes is something we want to make available to the industry as a whole,” Cappello says, noting that Nue Life has collected outcomes data on hundreds of patients with treatment-resistant conditions. “By capturing that data and sharing it broadly, we think that’s the way you push the conversation and the industry forward.” Field Trip is also using data to inform its research and development arm, which recently spun out from its clinics business, now known as Field Trip Health and Wellness.

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Ultimately, the partnership between Field Trip and Nue Life is designed to improve flexibility for both companies, which can now refer patients to one another. It also opens up the potential for new models.

“Our technology allows us to be in constant contact with our patients and really try to figure out where they are,” Cappello says. “We’re very open with certain patients to the hybrid model where perhaps they do one or two treatments in clinic and the burden of getting to the clinic or the cost is something that makes them more comfortable moving to an at-home treatment. . . .We view this as a starting point, and we’re going to learn a lot as we go live.”

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