Video game approved as prescription-only ADHD treatment: FDA

A phone game a day keeps the doctor away.

That’s right, the US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light Monday to the first-ever video-game based therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The video game, dubbed “EndeavorRx,” can now be prescribed to kids aged 8 to 12 who suffer with certain kinds of ADHD, a mood disorder marked by trouble paying attention and controlling behavior that affects nearly 4 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The EndeavorRx device offers a non-drug option for improving symptoms associated with ADHD in children,” Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement. The pixelated pharmaceutical, created by Akili, is even billed on the site as a “first-of-its-kind attention treatment for children with ADHD . . . delivered through a captivating video game experience.”

The “EndeavorRx” medical designation came after the FDA reviewed five clinical studies on more than 600 children that demonstrated that it was an effective form of ADHD treatment. Indeed, over 30% of test subjects “no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention” after playing the virtual obstacle course simulator for just 25 minutes a day, five days a week for four weeks, per the study published in the Lancet.

Not only that, but the benefits of the prescription-only video game therapy reportedly lasted for a month afterward, while side effects were limited to “frustration, headache, dizziness, emotional reaction, and aggression” — which are apparently the norm for hardcore gamers.

However, the study doesn’t give Xbox addicts carte-blanche to glue themselves to their screens all day. The FDA statement specifies that the digital remedy “is intended for use as part of a therapeutic program that may include clinician-directed therapy, medication, and/or educational programs.”

Still, EndeavorRx, which can be downloaded as a mobile device application, “is an important example of the growing field of digital therapy and digital therapeutics,” Shuren says.

“We’re proud to make history today with FDA’s decision,” said Akili CEO Eddie Martucci in a press release from the gaming firm, reports CNN. 

This isn’t the first time a video game has been touted as an alternative form of medicine. One UK study found that the phone game Sea Hero Quest can detect Alzheimer’s symptoms while other research shows that Candy Crush could potentially boost brain function.

Conversely, other studies demonstrate that certain pixelated pursuits could heighten the risk of dementia and schizophrenia.

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