FDA approves first prescription video game for kids with ADHD

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EndeavorRX is the first prescription video game.
Image: Akili Interactive

It’s every kid’s dream to get prescribed some video game time. A future where that is reality is now taking shape. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just made a landmark decision that designates Akili Interactive’s “EndeavorRX” as the first video game that can be prescribed for medical reasons in the United States.

Although the title—from a gaming standpoint—isn’t that impressive, it will go down in the history books. “EndeavorRX” is designed to help reduce attention deficit symptoms in kids struggling with ADHD.

Proven at Last

Just like traditional medicines, “EndeavorRX” had to undergo years of testing and clinical trials before it got to where it is today. The game, formerly known as “Project EVO” passed through seven years of trials with over 600 children.

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According to one of the studies, one-third of children who played the game as prescribed for 25 minutes a day, five days a week, for four weeks, “no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention.”

Akili Interactive, meanwhile, says, “Improvements in ADHD impairments following a month of treatment with ‘EndeavorRX’ were maintained for up to a month.”

Unlike traditional medications, the game has only mild side effects. Some children reported things like a headache or frustration with the obstacle-dodging, item-collecting game. That’s a huge advantage over the prescriptions usually used to keep ADHD at bay. Those can include things like dry mouth, drowsiness, stomach pain, nausea, and more.

Thanks to the FDA ruling, doctors can now prescribe the game as a treatment for ADHD for children between the ages of eight and 12. “EndeavorRX” is available on both the iPhone and iPad.

Ready to Launch

Right now, “EndeavorRX” hasn’t actually launched. Akili did open it for enrollment through the FDA’s relaxed COVID-19 enforcement in April for a limited number of families. However, it is still working on getting the game ready for wider use. It has a waitlist set up on its website for those who are interested in the game.

Meanwhile, there are still some questions about the efficacy of the treatment. The study noted above was actually carried out by a doctor that works for Akili. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is bias, consumers should take the findings with a grain of salt. Even the researchers note that their results “are not sufficient to suggest that AKL-T01 [‘EndeavorRX’] should be used as an alternative to established and recommended treatments for ADHD.”

Nonetheless, it certainly won’t hurt. The game is simply another tool that doctors and families can use to try and ease the symptoms of ADHD in affected children.

Aside from that, it’s also a pretty cool development for the tech world. Talk of using video games as prescription medicine has been swirling since the mid-2010s. To finally see that vision come to life is impressive. Prescription video games are no longer something of the future—they are something of today. In the years to come, it will be intriguing to see if other developers pursue similar projects to treat other conditions.

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