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A Potential Virtual Reality-Based Treatment for Severe Psychiatric Disorders

In June of this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) awarded UK-based OxfordVR a gameChangeVR treatment initiative to provide immersive cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to people suffering from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. It was announced that temporary device designation was granted. The FDA’s Breakthrough Device Program targets medical devices or device-driven combination products that provide more effective treatment or diagnosis of disease. The purpose of this program is to facilitate the development, evaluation and review of medical devices for timely access by patients and providers.

About 1.2 million people in the UK and 2.7 million people in the US are believed to suffer from schizophrenia, according to GlobalData’s Epidemiology & Market Size database, making schizophrenia spectrum disorders the most debilitating of the mental illnesses. considered one of the most common diseases. Schizophrenia is often treated using CBT, but depending on the severity of the disorder, antipsychotics are also prescribed to minimize delusions and hallucinations. , and the risk of side effects such as blurred vision, virtual reality (VR) technology that can facilitate recovery without antipsychotics is an attractive option.

OxfordVR uses VR headsets to simulate real-world, everyday scenarios for patients often associated with increased anxiety and stress. A VR headset provides a virtual coach to guide the patient through scenarios using CBT methods. The prescribed service lasted him six weeks, and it is believed that the lessons learned during the VR experience will be reflected in his daily life.

gameChangerVR is in clinical trials with both the National Health Service (NHS) and the Wounded Warrior Project, a US veterans’ charity. The NHS study recruited 346 patients with a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorder or psychotic affective disorder into the study, providing evidence that VR therapy reduces anxiety avoidance and distress in everyday situations. I found. In 2020, OxfordVR raised his $12.5 million Series A funding from Optum Ventures, backed by Luminous Ventures. This investment helped drive the growth of the company’s immersive VR therapy and was at the time the largest investment in VR in the UK and Europe. This follows his 2018 project, supported by his £4m ($5.7m) grant from the UK’s National Institutes of Health (NIHR), where OxfordVR’s technology was implemented in his NHS. .

Besides OxfordVR, other companies are experimenting with using VR to treat mental illnesses and disorders. XRHealth launched in 2020 a VR therapy application designed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The patient receives a VR headset that offers video calls and in-app messaging with her XRHealth clinician who works with the patient to create a personalized care plan. And last year, EaseVRx received marketing approval from the FDA to use VR-based his CBT and other behavioral methods to address pain perception in patients diagnosed with chronic low back pain.

The impact on mental health caused by Covid-19, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and other global crises has been significant, with heightened levels of stress and anxiety leading to an increased demand for mental health services. This is accelerating innovation in digital health as patients and physicians seek alternatives to in-person care. In addition to this, the influx of cases into strained health services during the pandemic is driving the development of new technologies such as VR care to relieve pressure.

GlobalData predicts that digital health will continue to benefit from collaboration and investment, and that the trend of increasing use of digital health innovations in neurology and mental health, such as telemental health and digital therapy, will continue post-Covid. In addition, VR headsets and smart glasses have become cheaper, and it has become easier to use VR apps on smartphones, so digital health technology centered on VR has become mainstream. Treatment delivered in this manner is cost-effective and less time consuming for both physicians and patients compared to pharmacological interventions. VR therapy can also retain the engaging element of therapy as it provides an immersive experience.

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