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Play your medicine! FDA leveling up with first prescription video game

By Adam Pockross

While some folks may be looking for prescription meds to combat their gaming-induced blood pressure spikes, the FDA is now looking at things from a different perspective — by approving the first video game in the United States that can legally be prescribed and marketed as medicine.

Sure we've discussed how gaming can be therapeutic before, which makes perfectly good sense, but did we really expect the FDA to be listening? Well, apparently they're open to such outside-the-box-yet-inside-the-console thinking, as according to yesterday's official press release, "the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permitted marketing of the first game-based digital therapeutic device to improve attention function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)."

Judging from the trailer below, which invites you to "play your medicine," Akili Interactive's EndeavorRX doesn't look all that much different from other video games (from the '90s). But according to the company's own press release, "it's designed for the targeted activation of specific neural systems in the brain to treat diseases with associated cognitive dysfunction."

Check it out…

The game still hasn't launched yet (there's currently a waitlist to join), but the road to EndeavorRX's FDA approval has already been as twisty as the screens navigated in the "whippersnapper" capturing gameplay above. It's already gone through five clinical studies, including a prospective, randomized controlled trial.

Granted, as The Verge points out, Akili's "favorite" study was funded by the company itself, though it did find that after a month of playing 25 minutes of EndeavorRX a day for five days a week, one third of kids "no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention."

EndeavorRX's most common side effects are cited as frustration and headache. But that might seem like a decent tradeoff compared to other medicines used to combat ADHD.

While EndeavorRX itself doesn't claim to fully be utilized as as an alternative to established ADHD treatments, it's a good start towards letting "virtual medicine" work its magic. And if doctor's orders are to play more video games, who are we too argue? Well, the WHO might argue video game addiction is a mental disorder in itself, but that's another story.