Mid-week roundup: Pear Therapeutics’ Chapter 11; Workit Health pinkslips 100; Outcome Health principals convicted of $1B fraud

Pear Therapeutics ran out of runway and is in the drink. On Friday, CEO Corey McCann announced in a post on LinkedIn that the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has laid off 170 employees, including him. Dr. McCann will continue on the board and as a compensated consultant, while chief operating and financial officer Christopher D.T. Guiffre will remain through the Chapter 11 process along with about 15 employees to manage the asset sale process, limited operations, and transition on behalf of the debtors.

According to their Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) 8-K filing, terminated employees were paid through April 7, 2023, received two weeks’ salary as severance, and were asked to sign a separation agreement, which includes a general release of claims against the company resulting in a $1.2 million charge.

Only last month, Pear announced that it was exploring ‘strategic alternatives’ including a sale or being acquired. According to the release, the debtors are still seeking a sale of the whole business or to part out specific assets. Now such sales and the bidding process must be approved by the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. Release  The sale is anticipated for May.

Another behavioral health casualty in a model that proved unworkable. Pear developed and marketed Prescription Digital Therapeutics (PDTs) concentrated in behavioral health and substance use including opioid use disorder. While these seemed to be accepted by providers, patients, and some payers, payment didn’t materialize from the last, according to Dr. McCann’s LinkedIn post. According to Forbes, “There were more than 45,000 prescriptions written for Pear’s products in 2022, but only around half were filled and the company was able to collect payment for only 41% of those.” The other factors were price and reimbursement. Pear’s products averaged $1,195, which took them out of private payment. Only a limited number of commercial insurers and Medicaid plans would pay for them. Medicare did not. In 2022, Pear reported an operating loss of $123.4 million on $12.7 million in revenue, which doesn’t fly in 2023.

This is quite a change from the heady days of 2021, when Pear went public on Nasdaq via a SPAC in December, raising about $175 million in additional funding. A sign of trouble was that the raise was far less than the anticipated $400 million. At that time, Pear was valued at about $1.6 billion. Prior to the SPAC, they had raised about $284 million through Series D funding (Crunchbase)  Mobihealthnews, MedCityNews

Another virtual behavioral health company facing loss of business is Workit Health, This is due to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) planned return to the in-person visit requirement for Schedule III-V non-narcotic controlled medications. Workit is a virtual therapy/treatment company for alcohol, stimulant, and opioid abuse, a crowded field. The company, rationally, is cutting 100 staff in anticipation of a drop in activity. To date, it has over $130 million in funding through a Series C, not a lot.  Behavioral Health Business  Also TTA 15 March on the DEA rule debate

Outcome Health–the other late 2010’s scandal after Theranos–had its denouement in a Federal court in Chicago yesterday (11 April). Convicted of $1 billion in fraud were:

  • Rishi Shah, 37, the co-founder and former CEO of Outcome Health: five counts of mail fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of money laundering
  • Shradha Agarwal, 37, the former president of Outcome: five counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, and two counts of bank fraud
  • Brad Purdy, 33, former chief operating officer and chief financial officer: five counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of false statements to a financial institution

Each count carries specific maximums of between 10 to 30 years which are usually served concurrently. Sentencing for the three executives and for three other employees who had pleaded guilty to lesser charges will be at a date to be determined. SEC charges are pending against the executives, along with Ashik Desai, former chief growth officer, who testified against his former bosses in the criminal trial and was one of the three who pleaded guilty.

Outcome delivered patient education on screens in doctor’s offices and circa 2016 was one of the hottest companies in Chicago. During the pandemic, it merged with PatientPoint. Their problem was inflating their ad delivery numbers to their sponsors such as Pfizer, Biogen, and Sanofi. This puffery included third-party analyses of the ads’ effectiveness, e.g. for prescriptions written. This was exposed by the Wall Street Journal in October 2017. Advertiser makegoods and clawbacks from lenders in the millions resulted. TTA 29 Jan 2018   But the executive crew above plus the other three employees concealed the under-delivery problem, faked revenue numbers, and presented them for debt financing plus equity funding in 2016-17 that rewarded them richly–thus the Federal fraud charges. Mobihealthnews, FierceHealthcare, DOJ release  TTA’s coverage from that time here

Let’s hope for more cheerful news out of HIMSS next week.

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