No fewer than 50 companies have shown interest in offering psychedelic therapy to their employees through healthcare plan startup Enthea.
The North American lifestyle is not for everyone. Working extensively long hours in order to climb up the corporate ladder while struggling to stay awake during incredibly long commute times and praying not to loose your nerve during rush hour can be life-draining as it is. For those wrestling with mental health disorders, this constant routine can only make things worse and have a detrimental impact on work-life balance, job performance and productivity, communication with coworkers and daily functioning.
Approximately, 19% of U.S. workers rate their mental health as fair or poor, and this segment reports about four times more unplanned absences caused by poor mental health conditions compared to workers reporting good, very good or excellent mental health.
Some employers offer the traditional healthcare benefits covering psychiatric and counseling services, telehealth, wellness programs and therapeutic interventions. However, these options prove to be ineffective for those struggling with severe affective disorders such as treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, and major depressive disorder to name a few, and according to a study published by NIH, “evidence that antidepressants are more effective in more severe conditions is not strong, and data on long term outcome of depression and suicide do not provide convincing evidence of benefit.”
On the other hand, some non traditional treatments such as psychedelic-assisted therapy are not covered by employers even though studies have consistently been providing evidence that psychedelics are promising treatments for multiple severe mental health conditions including anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, without the adverse reactions that conventional medications can cause. A Some studies have found that a single 25mg dose of psilocybin, paired with psychological support has led to a 57% sustained remission of depression and a 64% robust clinical response. Additionally, psychedelics have the potential to foster neuroplasticity in the brain, facilitating enhanced connectivity among various brain regions. This, in turn, leads to a profound alteration in consciousness, perception, as well as introspection and personal insight.
Although the potential of psychedelic medicines to treat psychiatrics disorders is encouraging, traditional health insurance providers are unlikely to offer coverage for these treatments as part of employer-sponsored health care plans until they are approved by the FDA – in most cases. As a result, the costs to these types of treatments, even if some of them are becoming legal options in certain states such as Oregon, are presenting barriers to access for most people.
But it isn't all doom and gloom. Some employers are beginning to change their perspectives towards psychedelic-assisted therapy and are finding ways to include legal options in their healthcare plans. Enthea, a startup third-party administrator of health insurance plans offering psychedelic healthcare as a workplace benefit, told Fast Company that about 50 firms have shown interest in adding this option to their employees' health plans.
Such is the case of Dr. Bronner's. In 2022, Enthea partnered with natural soap brand, making the company the first employer to add ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAT) to its existing health insurance plans. The health benefits included ketamine sessions and counseling services focused on treating mental health conditions.
Enthea also plans on adding MDMA-assisted therapy and psilocybin-assisted therapy once they become approved by the FDA. MDMA for the treatment of PTSD may be approved by the end of this year while psilocybin-assisted therapy still needs the completion of it's largest Phase 3 clinical trial for treatment-resistant depression, expected to be completed by 2025.
Last week, Enthea released their one-year results from their psychedelic-assisted therapy benefit program administered for Dr. Bronner's and the results look very promising.
According to the company, 7% of Dr. Bronner's overall health plan members underwent a KAT treatment regimen only offered by FLOW Integrative, a ketamine clinic based in San Diego. The treatment includes medical and psychiatric evaluation, preparatory sessions, ketamine IV infusions, and integration therapy sessions aiming to help patients to integrate their experiences and incorporate the desired changes into their lives. What was the end result post-treatment? Well, patients diagnosed with various mental health conditions reported significant symptom reductions which would typically prevent employees from performing at their fullest capacity. Astonishingly, patients diagnosed with PTSD, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder reported that their symptoms have improved by 86%, 67%, and 65% respectively.
“Many members of the All-One family at Dr. Bronner’s who have been struggling with mental health challenges have availed themselves of ketamine-assisted therapy, and have relayed their deep heartfelt thanks for the incredible healing impact it has made,” said David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s. “Enthea makes the experience seamless for our staff as well as on our side, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. May all who are in need benefit from this healing medicine and therapy!”
Enthea reports that employers who offer psychedelic-assisted therapy as part of health coverage can expect a positive impact on productivity from employees, a reduction in medical expenses, increased employee retention and reduced turnover. Additionally, companies may benefit by becoming a more attractive workplace for younger workers, who often seek employers with more generous and innovative benefit offerings.
“Key to Enthea’s mission is to make psychedelic-assisted therapies affordable, accessible, and equitable for as many as possible through its Provider Network – so that it’s not only available to the affluent but to all who would benefit,” the company wrote. “Enthea provides a turn-key operation that makes it easy for employers to include these treatments as part of their health care coverage to employees and their families.”
Psilocybin became legalized in Oregon on November 3, 2020, when Measure 109 passed with 56% of the vote. This made Oregon the first state in the U.S. to legalize the adult use of psilocybin mushrooms, allowing it to create a psilocybin services program that permits adults 21 and older to get access to psilocybin-assisted therapy for the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The program made the drug legal January 1st, 2023, and legal psilocybin-assisted therapy centers have already started opening their doors. In 2022, Colorado decriminalized psilocybin mushrooms through Proposition 122, allowing adults 21 and older to possess and use magic mushrooms for personal use. Although Measure 122 passed in 2022, the initiative will take full effect in 2024 and licensed facilities will be allowed to administer psilocybin to those in need.
According to a poll created by University of Berkeley 61% of Americans support legalization of psychedelics and about a dozen states in the US have put forward legislation that would see multiple psychedelic substances receive downgraded criminalization designations.
“It’s starting to become far more mainstream,” says Enthea’s cofounder and CEO, Sherry Rais.
Ketamine therapy is a popular off-label treatment that has shown efficacy in treating a range of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD by stimulating synaptic growth and “re-wiring” the brain. Esketamine, also known as Spravato, which is an intranasal ketamine-derivative spray, was granted FDA approval in 2019 to treat patients with treatment-resistant depression.
Encouraged by the Dr. Bronner's health program results, Enthea is now planning to add telemedicine/at-home treatment model for ketamine assisted-therapy by partnering with leading mental wellness provider, Nue Life. This partnership will enable patients to reduce travel expenses and wait times while allowing them to get safe and convenient ketamine treatment and integration therapy in the comfort of their own homes.
“Enthea and Nue Life are working in tandem to provide cutting-edge mental health solutions, no matter the environment,” said Juan Pablo Cappello, CEO & Co-Founder of Nue Life Health. “We are excited to be Enthea's first partner for at-home treatment and to be providing cutting-edge ways to capture patient data so Enthea can achieve its mission of equity and access while being able to demonstrate outcomes.”