Ria Health Awarded $2 Million from NIH for Telehealth Clinical Trial

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Ria Health, a leading telehealth provider, specializing in Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) treatment, announced receipt of a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a randomized, controlled trial evaluation of Ria Health’s intervention to increase telehealth screening and treatment for alcohol use disorders. It involves the evaluation of Ria Health’s medically assisted treatment program’s effectiveness—The Ria Health Program—for decreasing problem drinking and resulting markers related to liver disease. Conducted in partnership with Stanford University, news of the trial was announced at the Liver Meeting, the leading national hepatology conference hosted by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

The study’s first phase will be funded immediately with $367,000 to identify and screen trial candidates, subject to milestone and regulatory approvals. Upon successful completion of phase one, the additional $1.63 million will fund the commencement of phase two when subject enrollment begins.

Judith Prochaska, PhD, MPH, Professor of Medicine with the Stanford Prevention Research Center, had this to say about the collaboration:

At Stanford, we are pleased to collaborate on this grant from NIH… It will support a randomized controlled trial evaluation of Ria Health’s telehealth intervention to increase screening and treatment for alcohol use disorder.

Over the last decade, alcohol use has contributed to the drop in US life expectancy. In 2020 in the US alone, 28.3 million people suffered from AUD. According to the NIH, the burden of alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) increased before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic exacerbated these conditions in patients with ALD and AUD, increasing mortality rates. Since early 2020, Ria Health has seen a 500 percent increase in patient enrollment and a tenfold increase in alcohol treatment-seeking adults. Due to the behavioral health impacts of COVID-19, studies found that national alcohol sales have skyrocketed since 2020.*

  • For people over the age of 26, the prevalence of AUD doubled from 10,618,000 in 2017 to 22,400,000 in 2020.
  • In 2020, the annual average percentage change in mortality rates from ALD in women ages 25-34 was 6.07% compared to 1.81% for women ages 65-74.
  • Meanwhile, treatment rates for AUD have been declining; in 2020, only 7 percent of people with AUD received treatment. Further, less than 1 percent of these people received medication-assisted treatment (or MAT), even with decades of peer-reviewed evidence of its effectiveness.

Harm Reduction Model Powered by Remote Patient Monitoring Technology

The Ria Health Program has developed a telehealth intervention that combines the alcohol reduction model, medical treatment, and structured counseling and coaching. The program focuses on reducing harmful drinking episodes via medication-assisted treatment to improve liver function, blood pressure, and destructive behavior. It offers several FDA-approved medications for AUD that, when combined with coaching, have been proven highly effective at reducing cravings and instances of harmful drinking. 

Program participants are also provided Bluetooth devices to track and monitor their blood alcohol levels using remote patient monitoring. Healthcare providers, in turn, have been stepping up their efforts to find effective means of educating physicians and treating patients. Alcohol use is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $28 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Identifying markers related to liver disease can prevent deaths when caught and treated early.

*Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute On Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R44AA030702. The content is solely the responsibility of Ria Health and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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