Virtual Reality, Real Pain Relief?

By Cari Wade Gervin
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
Specialty: 

AppliedVR hopes its immersive therapeutics will help patients with chronic pain, and investors hope so too.

In November 2021, the FDA authorized the first prescription-use immersive virtual reality (VR) system to treat chronic lower back pain. The EaseVRx device, manufactured by AppliedVR, uses a 3D VR headset to present patients with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other behavioral therapy techniques, such as deep breathing, for sessions over an eight-week period. Subjects in research trials had a 42% reduction in pain intensity and 49% reduction in activity interference compared to a 2D program.

Business Bets Big

While VR medicine is still in its nascent stages, AppliedVR already raised $71 million in funding, including a new $36 million in series B investments ahead of FDA approval last fall.

“We’re committed to continuing research that validates our efficacy and cost-effectiveness for treating chronic pain and other indications,” says Josh Sackman, AppliedVR Co-Founder and President, in a press release.

If the technology shows success beyond back pain — it is also being tested for treatment-resistant fibromyalgia — it could help reshape the healthcare marketplace. The cost of all chronic pain cumulatively runs around $635 billion per year. AppliedVR is now working on further studies with Geisinger and Cleveland Clinic to test whether VR can help manage both acute and chronic pain in lieu of opioids.