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NICE conditionally recommends apps to treat depression and anxiety disorders

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is consulting on its decision to provisionally recommend eight digital tools to treat depression and anxiety disorders in adults.

The eight “digital-enabled therapies" treat conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and body dysmorphia and are supported by an NHS talking therapies clinician using cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) techniques, according to a press statement released last week (March 1). 

The apps are conditionally recommended while more evidence is "gathered" as part of a new NICE rapid assessment process, the statement said. 

They are only recommended for use following an assessment with an NHS therapist, "as they may not be the right choice for everyone", NICE noted.

And the apps must “achieve regulatory approval prior to their NHS use”, including a nod from NHS England (NHSE).

The consultation is open for comments until March 15.  

According to the NHS Business Services Authority, in 2021/22 there was a 5% rise in the number of adults taking antidepressants –  up from 7.9 million in the previous 12 months to 8.3m.
The statement added the new digital therapies have “the potential to help more than 40,000 people”. 
Use of the apps must be “delivered with practitioner or therapist support” and must include “regular monitoring and management of patient safety and progress”, the statement said.


Potential to provide effective treatment


Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE, said: “Our rapid assessment of these eight technologies has shown they have promise.”

He added that they were “developed using tried and tested CBT methods” and “each one has demonstrated it has the potential to provide effective treatment to the many thousands of people who live with these conditions”.

He continued: “We want these new treatment options to be available for people to use as quickly as possible and we also want to make sure they are clinically effective and represent good value for the NHS.”

“The additional evidence collected during this period will help us do that,” he concluded.

Read more: The missing piece in antidepressant treatment

Elizabeth Mullenger, lay specialist member on the NICE committees said that “sometimes people need support most in the middle of the night, or after a busy day at work” and find it hard to “know where to turn”.

She added that “having access to digital therapy can give people the help they need, when they need it”.

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