Stat News has some weird news at the intersection of business and pharmacology – a new company wants to sell a beta-blocker used for blood pressure and arrhythmia as an anti-anxiety med – with a prescription-filling app:
Kick wants to become a telemedicine platform that makes it easy for nearly anyone who needs a confidence boost — before a first date, perhaps, or a big work presentation — to get a prescription for propranolol. They just need to pass a screening by filling out an online form and interacting in some way with a physician — the current idea is a video call.
As for the medication itself, Kick has reformulated the traditional pill into a minty lozenge, like an Altoid, that dissolves in your mouth, releasing 10 milligrams of the cardiac drug. The company wants to make it available in different colors and flavors, like watermelon.
“Our hope is to try to de-clinify the whole experience,” said Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a psychiatrist in private practice in Silicon Valley who has a stake in Kick and expects to prescribe propranolol through its platform.
[A]s Stanford psychiatrist Dr. Anna Lembke put it: “To suggest that propranonol is entirely benign and equal to an Altoid, I think, is a really dangerous notion.”
That’s because although propranolol is an old drug with a strong safety profile, it still carries a small but real risk of side effects, ranging from lightheadedness all the way up to reports of congestive heart failure and the serious allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Propranolol isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat social anxiety or performance anxiety. But because Kick won’t be manufacturing the drug, it won’t be subject to FDA rules restricting off-label marketing by manufacturers. (The company worked with a compounding pharmacy to develop a proof of concept for the mint-style pill and is now talking to manufacturers.) Still, Ip’s being careful to comply with regulations.
“The way I think we’re going to message this is: Fear gets in the way of living your best self and achieving what you want to achieve and reaching your full potential, especially around the things that you value the most,” [company founder Justin] Ip said. “So what if there was a cure for that that involved an app and potentially a prescription drug?”
As a note, I myself take a related drug, metoprolol, and am not a big fan of its more subtle effects, even at low doses. Low blood pressure, lightheadedness, a flattening of affect…. I mean to a degree, it just makes me more like what I’ve always been, but still.
Tying this to an app (which is kind of an addictive interface to begin with) seems problematic to me.