NEW YORK, June 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As pandemic-related social distancing measures continue, employers across the globe are extending work from home orders. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is extending its WFH orders until October, while tech giants like Google and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) are requiring their employees to stay home until 2021. It seems that the work-from-home movement is gaining steam with several companies in the space, but some mental health experts are warning about the adverse effects of using Zoom (NASDAQ:ZOOM) video calls as the sole means of communication. So-called "Zoom anxiety" only adds to the general overwhelm and feeling of isolation, sending more people to seek out prescriptions for addictive anti-anxiety medications like Eli Lilly and Company's (NYSE:LLY) Prozac. At the same time, psychedelic drug company Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. (NEO:MMED) (OTCQB:MMEDF) is creating treatments that combat both anxiety and addiction.
Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. (NEO:MMED) (OTCQB:MMEDF) just announced the launch of Project Lucy, a commercial drug development program that uses psychedelic assisted therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders. The company will be initiating a Phase 2b human trial that focuses on experiential doses of the psychedelic substance LSD administered by a therapist.
Video Conferencing Takes a Toll on Mental Health
Isolation, lack of social connection and overall uncertainty are already taking a toll on everyone's mental health during the pandemic. While Zoom (NASDAQ:ZOOM) usage skyrocketed from 10 million users to 300 million users during the first three months of isolation, so have prescriptions for anxiety disorders like Eli Lilly and Company's Prozac, which saw sales rise 9.2% from 27.2 million to 29.7 million between March 2019 to March 2020.
Mental health and communications experts are warning that Zoom creates mental fatigue and anxiety because users feel pressured to "really be on and be responsive" at all times. The nature of speaking over video calls also requires more mental energy and focus, which can create additional stress.
This "new norm" of interacting is only worsening an already-serious problem in the United States. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population every year. Now, with pandemic-related stress mounting, antidepressants such as Eli Lilly and Company's (NYSE:LLY) Prozac and Pfizer's Zoloft are running in short supply in various regions due to increased demand. Which is why disruptive solutions for anxiety disorders and mental health are becoming increasingly important.
Groundbreaking psychedelic drug companies like Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. (MMED.AQN) (MMEDF.QB) are working on disruptive approaches to treat anxiety and other mental health issues. The company's newly launched Project Lucy is the first experiential, psychedelic-assisted therapy to be added to the company's drug development pipeline.
Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. has also established a project task force to prepare a briefing package for a potential Investigational New Drug (IND) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The task force is working to prepare and analyze data relevant for the discussion with the FDA relating to the potential opening of a US IND for the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Prior to the launch of Project Lucy, MindMed acquired exclusive, worldwide data rights to eight completed or ongoing clinical trials from the University Hospital Basel evaluating LSD based on over 10 years of research. The company plans to assemble and use this data as part of its briefing package to the FDA.
Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. also received the data and worldwide rights to an ongoing Phase 2 trial for anxiety disorders administered by the world leader in psychedelics pharmacology and clinical research, Dr. Matthias Liechti, and psychedelic therapy expert, Dr. Peter Gasser. This data will help build MindMed's understanding of LSD for anxiety disorders and its platform for LSD as a prescription medication for serious mental health conditions.
Many mental health disorders appear to be interconnected, which presents a unique opportunity for companies like Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. (MMED.AQN) (MMEDF.QB) to innovate and create a novel treatment paradigm. For example, approximately 50% of ADHD patients also suffer from anxiety disorders and up to 90% of patients with General Anxiety Disorder also have symptoms of another mental health problem, such as depression or substance abuse.
Will Working From Home Become the New Norm?
With employees around the world going into their third month of remote work, some companies are contemplating whether or not it should become the new normal. After all, studies have shown that employees are, in fact, a lot more productive while working from home compared to being in the office. In fact, one 2015 study even suggests that working from home can improve performance by 13% in the first nine months away from the office.
That's likely why tech giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has decided to allow employees to work remotely permanently. In May, the company's CEO Mark Zuckerberg told workers during a live-streamed staff meeting that within a decade up to half of Facebook's over 48,000 employees would work from home. Meanwhile, Google employees are gearing up to work from home for the remainder of the year and are being given a $1,000 allowance to spend on equipment to help outfit their home workspaces.
Although working from home could very well become the new norm, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella has warned that making remote work permanent could lead to negative consequences for social interaction and mental health. Even as Microsoft was one of the first companies to shift its tech workforce remotely when the pandemic began to spread across the globe, Nadella believes switching to entirely remote offices would only replace "one dogma with another dogma."
Of course, whether employees return to the office or not, it's evident that the pandemic has taken a toll on many people's mental health. The significant uptick in prescriptions for anti-anxiety medicine in March is a sharp reversal from the pattern over the last five years when the use of benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan and Valium) declined by 12.1%. The reason is that doctors have shifted away from prescribing these meds, which are prone to abuse, in favor of therapy.
It's also encouraging to see companies like Mind Medicine (MindMed) Inc. (MMED.AQN) (MMEDF.QB) developing potentially non-addictive treatments to combat anxiety and depression for the growing market.
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