Doctors can now prescribe game as therapy in the US

Doctors can now prescribe game as therapy in the US

For the first time in the United States, a game may be legally marketed and prescribed as a drug in the country. It is quite a milestone for the digital games industry and for what society understands as medicine. After all, a drug no longer needs to mean a pill or an injection, but it can be a digital platform, as long as it has a proven effect and is safe.

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The unprecedented decision was taken by the federal agency Food and Drug Administration (FDA), equivalent to Anvisa in Brazil, which now authorizes doctors to prescribe the EndeavorRX game for children between eight and 12 years of age with ADHD (attention deficit disorder) with hyperactivity).

The decision was only possible after years of clinical trials that studied more than 850 children and were investigating whether a game could in any way make a difference. Developed for iOS, EndeavorRX can be "managed" via iPhones or iPads.

In the US, a game may be prescribed for ADHD patients as part of the treatment (Image: Reproduction / Akili Interactive)

Understand the game

In a trailer for the title not yet available on the market, players drive a flying platform through different scenarios, such as glacial spaces, the seabed and even inside volcanoes. To complete the challenges and advance, the user can move his character left or right, hitting targets and avoiding obstacles.

Although simple, the act of playing the game was related to an improvement in the attention capacity of one third of the children surveyed, according to a survey conducted by Akili Interactive with 857 children. This is one of the conclusions that the randomized, double-blind clinical study reached, as published in the British journal The Lancet.

"AKL-T01 (EndeavorRX) is an investigative digital therapy designed to direct attention and cognitive control, provided by a video game-like interface via home game for 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks" , states the publication and thus also establishes the basic recipe for at least four weeks of mandatory video games. As adverse effects, only frustration and, eventually, headaches from exposure were noted.

The curious thing about the study is also the term used to designate the video game, digital therapy. It is a relatively new name for this type of medical proposal and is still quite experimental, since there are few studies that directly link virtual experiences with their effects on the human body, such as a medicine. Thus, medicine begins to understand digital as a tool to improve human conditions.

Virtual Medicine

As a result of the research, one third of the children exposed to the game “no longer had a measurable attention deficit in at least one objective attention measure”, that is, a good result, but it is necessary to warn that the company had already done other researches previously and this is the most positive result obtained to date. The other results were less promising.

In addition, it is important to note that the prescription is only part of a larger treatment. Even doctors, who work for Akili and seek to improve the game for these patients, know that the study does not provide sufficient evidence for EndeavorRX to be an "alternative to the treatments established and recommended for ADHD".

But that does not mean that the game does not help children with ADHD, quite the contrary. With FDA approval, doctors will now be able to use it as an alternative to complement other treatments that should not be abandoned for children with these conditions.

For the company, the next step is to actually launch the game on the market, said an Akili representative for The Verge. At this stage, the company already has a waiting list for families who wish to participate with their children.

Next, check out the trailer for the first video game that can be prescribed for ADHD patients as part of the treatment: