NHS to trial digital depression tool Deprexis

NICE has recommended that the online and mobile programme Deprexis should be trialled on the NHS to treat depression.

Deprexis has been developed by Gaia Healthcare and is already used in Germany where it is marketed by Servier.

Around 200 people in England could be the first to benefit from free access to this digital therapy, which will be trialled for up to two years.

People can log into the online programme at any time to complete modules of cognitive behavioural therapy, avoiding the need to attend therapist appointments in person. A therapist can see what part of the programme each person is using and they can exchange messages via a secure messaging system.

The recommendation follows a call from NICE to digital health companies to submit products to treat anxiety and depression last year.

It is part of NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychologic Therapies programme, which began in 2008 and provides access to these services for around 900,000 people each year.

Following an assessment, NICE has produced its first ever digital psychological therapy briefing, concluding that Deprexis could be an effective alternative therapy for adults with depression.

Although costs in the UK have yet to be agreed, a German health economic study showed that total health costs reduced by around £970 per person when treated with Deprexis.

Another study showed total healthcare costs decreased by 32% in patients treated with Deprexis, compared with 13% in a usual care group.

However at a cost of £290 per person for Deprexis, compared with £110 per patient for a six-month course of antidepressants, the digital technology does not produce direct cost savings compared with conventional drug therapy.

But NICE said that Deprexis requires no training costs, and may be delivered using a lower grade of staff, freeing up more experienced staff to deal with patients with more serious conditions.

Deprexis is much cheaper than face-to-face individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which costs around £560.

A technical assessment said Deprexis needs to tweak the technology to bring it up to NHS standards – but a remediation plan produced by the manufacturer is acceptable.

NICE said Deprexis is well written and forms a good framework for CBT therapy to treat depression.

Gaia Healthcare is one of many digital health firms targeting depression – last year Takeda began a collaboration with UK-based Cognition Kit on an app to monitor depression.

University of Texas researchers have also developed a learning algorithm that has been trained to detect the risk of depression from brain scan data.

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