Former congressman and professor say ADHD startup overstated their ties

(Bloomberg) — Mental health startup Done touted its relationship with a former congressman and Stanford psychiatrist and professor in a pitch sent to potential investors. But these people say their role has been distorted and exaggerated by the company.

In an April document aimed at potential funders, Done listed former Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak on a page titled “Advisors and Investors,” according to a copy of the document viewed by Bloomberg.

But in a statement to Bloomberg, Stupak said the presentation significantly misrepresents his role. Stupak said he was “not an adviser or investor” for Done, and only handled “government relations” for the company, which grew rapidly last year in connecting patients online with medical staff who might prescribe ADHD medications such as Adderall. The company has come under scrutiny for making these drugs, which can be abused, easier to obtain than some experts expect.

Done did not dispute the existence of the documents or the fact that they could have been shared, but called them “drafts”. Nothing indicates on the documents that they are not final.

On the same “Advisors and Investors” page, Done also listed Nina Vasan, a Stanford School of Medicine professor who founded the university’s lab focused on mental health innovation. Like Stupak, Vasan took issue with Done’s description of her.

“I am not, and never have been, an advisor to Done,” she said in an interview. “Advertising myself as such is inappropriate and makes me feel uncomfortable. I have nothing to do with the growth and development of this business.

Vasan, who is the chief medical officer at another mental health startup called Real, invested in Done’s seed round in 2020, according to people familiar with the matter. But the amount was in the tens of thousands of dollars and was less than 1% of the total $3 million raised, the people said.

Presentation file

Along with the “Advisors and Investors” slide, the April document includes company operating metrics, a list of key executives, industry stats, an overview of platform offerings, and a project timeline. planned for 2022 – all the standard parts of a startup pitch. to donors. It was provided to Bloomberg by a potential investor who received it, and it is unclear to what extent it was distributed outside the company or how many other investors, if any, obtained it. copies.

Done said there were “no official company documents” outlining the roles of Stupak and Vasan the way the pitch obtained by Bloomberg shows.

“Any documents or presentations that mention it are inaccurate,” the company said in a statement. “Many documents and presentations have been distributed in draft form that have no legal or binding authority for our business or our corporate structure.”

While online ADHD startups have come under scrutiny, some have left the company. One Done competitor Cerebral said earlier this year it would no longer allow the prescription of controlled substances used to treat ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin. Another competitor, Ahead, had previously announced its intention to pull out and stop offering services to existing patients starting last month. Many of those patients have since turned to Done, Bloomberg reported.

The April presentation predicted that with additional funding, Done could achieve an annual run rate of $100 million and “become the predominant market leader” this year. As part of his plan, Done listed initiating partnerships with schools, hospitals and businesses, as well as incorporating insurance coverage into the network.

While Done describes the documents as inaccurate, this isn’t the first time the company has named Vasan as a funder. In fact, an earlier version of the company’s presentation materials that was shared with various potential backers in April 2021 described Vasan as a “notable” investor. The person who shared the 2021 presentation didn’t donate any money to the company and asked not to be named.

Top level names

Along with Vasan’s Stanford pedigree, Stupak’s career story lends its own credibility. In 2000, her son died by suicide, an event the former Democratic congressman says may be linked to the prescription drug Accutane, which contains warnings about mental health side effects. The drug’s maker disputed those claims at the time.

For nearly two decades in Congress, Stupak has become an outspoken voice on drug safety, particularly around online prescribing. He was the main sponsor of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, a 2008 law that imposed rules regarding the prescription of controlled substances via telemedicine. The law is named after an 18-year-old man who died of an overdose of Vicodin that was prescribed to him through a telemedicine appointment. It requires clinicians to hold at least one in-person appointment before writing a prescription. This requirement was lifted during the Covid-19 public health emergency.

Done’s presentation of influential and prominent healthcare figures during an investor pitch comes at a time when the struggling startup is facing intense scrutiny from clinicians and customers alike. say the company’s rapid growth has come at the expense of patient care. Changes to the Haight Act during the pandemic fueled the growth of Done’s and other similar businesses by allowing doctors and nurses working with the companies to write prescriptions for controlled substances, including stimulants used to treat ADHD , also known as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. . As Covid-19 wanes, some lawmakers have urged regulators to extend the waiver.

Stupak, now a partner at Washington-based law firm Venable LLP, first registered as a lobbyist for Done in January and has received $100,000 in fees from the firm so far this year. according to disclosures filed with the House and Senate. In addition to both houses of Congress, Stupak engages the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration in lobbying activities specifically related to the Ryan Haight Act on Done’s behalf, according to filings.

Done’s subscription service connects patients seeking ADHD help with nurse practitioners who perform virtual assessments and write prescriptions. Clients pay $199 for a first appointment and $79 for subsequent months. Since its founding in 2020, Done has amassed more than 30,000 members, according to people familiar with the company’s operations. The startup has taken advantage of its growth to expand into new revenue streams, including a pediatric version of its service for parents seeking to treat their children’s ADHD, for a higher monthly fee of $125.

©2022 Bloomberg LP

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