Cerebral, a telehealth startup in the US has come under investigation for allegedly prescribing controlled substances.
The US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into an allegation that Cerebral, a mental health company, has been prescribing controlled substances, including Adderall and Xanax. The probe is being handled by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Cerebral has since announced it would stop giving out prescriptions for the substances. The company maintains a platform that provides therapy and counseling for people suffering from anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD. However, Cerebral goes further than its competitors by prescribing controlled substances.
Even before the DoJ’s investigation, Cerebral has been under fire from the medical community, regulators, and social media platforms for its adverts and prescriptions. For example, the company has published ads on social media platforms owned by Meta and TikTok that establish a connection between ADHD and obesity. All the platforms canceled the ad campaign because they were misleading.
Other experts criticized Cerebral’s ads for overestimating the efficacy of ADHD medications and connecting vague symptoms to the medical condition, leading its users to be misdiagnosed. In an investigation on the company carried out by The Wall Street Journal, the nurses working for the platform claimed they are pressured to prescribe ADHD medications after a short video call session with users.
Even Cerebral itself admitted to using problematic ads. In a blog message to the staff, founder and CEO of Cerebral, Kyle Robertson, said, “We recognize that we have made mistakes when it comes to our Tiktok, Facebook, and Instagram advertising in the past. We listened to the feedback and took action immediately when notified of the concerns. We have completed a review of our marketing and advertising plans and in response, we formed a Clinical Review Committee. This committee is responsible for reviewing paid social ads to ensure we are accurately marketing our services for all treated conditions based on clinical guidelines and medical information. It consists of members of Cerebral’s clinical and brand teams. We want to make sure our ads reflect that Cerebral is here to provide support for their mental health journey.”
Cerebral’s prescription partners like Walmart and CVS have since stopped filling Adderal prescriptions from the company and other telehealth platforms. Even the pharmacy Cerebral used the most, Truepill, would no longer accept prescriptions of controlled substances from the startup.
Separately, Cerebral is involved in a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. However, Cerebral maintains it has not been accused of any wrongdoing yet. “To be clear, at this time, no regulatory or law enforcement authority has accused Cerebral of violating any law. Cerebral intends to fully cooperate with the investigation, which we already have conveyed to the US Attorney’s Office,” Cerebral said to the Insider.
The company has announced changes to its leadership structure, which the CEO claims will strengthen the workforce.