Big Health to acquire Limbix, maker of digital therapeutics for teenage mental health

Big Health, a maker of digital therapeutics, announced it was acquiring Limbix, creator of digital therapeutics for adolescents. 

The acquisition marks Big Health’s first entry into the adolescent space. Limbix makes what it calls the first evidence-based digital therapeutic for adolescents with symptoms of depression, SparkRx. The transaction will expand Big Health’s portfolio of existing products, including Sleepio for insomnia and Daylight for anxiety, with Limbix’s SparkRx and another adolescent product in development targeting anxiety. The addition will help fill a growing customer need, as employers and payers increasingly look for ways to support a broader age range, executives said.

“Our portfolio of evidence-based, clinically validated digital treatments will enable a record number of adult and adolescent patients to get immediate access to safe and effective non-drug options,” Arun Gupta, CEO and executive chairman of Big Health, said in a press release.

Designed by an interdisciplinary team, including experts in adolescent psychology, SparkRx is a self-guided cognitive behavioral therapy treatment aimed at overcoming common barriers to mental healthcare access by leveraging smartphones. Meant for young people aged 13 and older, the product is supported by trial data showing a clinically meaningful reduction in depression symptoms, the companies say. It teaches skills like mood tracking, behavioral activation, problem-solving and mindfulness. 

In addition to providers, SparkRx will be made available to Big Health’s employer, public sector, health system and payer customers. Its strategic distribution agreements with pharmacy benefit managers will help increase nationwide access, per the company. SparkRx can also be referred to patients by a clinician. 

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the youth mental health crisis, doubling depression and anxiety rates globally. At the same time, it is estimated that most young people don’t receive adequate treatment. The burden falls on working parents, who report that issues with their child’s mental health make the challenges of their job much harder to handle. 

“Parents of teens are a little more reluctant to start medications,” Gupta told Fierce Healthcare. “It’s an area where digital therapeutics could and should shine as a treatment modality.” 

While Gupta believes it’s appropriate for parents to be involved, getting access to kids is a bit of a challenge, he acknowledged. Big Health plans to communicate directly with parents through their employer and payer arrangements. “That’s key because we can basically land in their inbox and make sure they’re aware this is a treatment option,” Gupta said. 

SparkRx was made available without a prescription during the COVID-19 pandemic under FDA’s enforcement policy for digital health devices treating psychiatric disorders. It has not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but Gupta didn’t rule out the possibility. “When we have great evidence, we can pursue different regulatory pathways,” he said. 

Big Health also plans to explore Medicaid coverage of Limbix’s products to help underserved families gain access to the treatments. 

“Limbix and Big Health share significant alignment in our cultures and in our focus on delivering first-line digital therapeutics for a range of mental health conditions,” Ben Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Limbix, said in the announcement. “As the industry leader, Big Health is a natural home for SparkRx.”

To date, more than 300,000 patients have enrolled in treatment through one of Big Health’s digital therapeutics. The company’s aim is to help solve the mental health crisis by providing safe and effective non-drug treatments for the most common conditions like anxiety and depression. Its products are backed by 15 randomized controlled trials. 

“We think that patients deserve access to clinical-grade, non-drug treatment,” Gupta said.