Kyle Robertson is out as CEO of Cerebral, the mental health startup he cofounded in January 2020, as the company faces a Department of Justice investigation over its prescribing practices for controlled substances, including ADHD medications. Cerebral said Wednesday Robertson leaves the position “effective immediately.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported on Robertson’s ouster by the board. Cerebral’s president and chief medical officer David Mou was named CEO. Jessica Muse becomes president in addition to her current role of chief operating officer. The San Francisco-based startup, which offers monthly subscriptions for virtual medication and therapy appointments for mental health conditions, was valued at $4.8 billion after a $300 million funding round led by SoftBank last December. Thomas Insel, the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health who has served as a clinical advisor to Cerebral, is joining the company’s board.
On Monday evening, Insider reported Robertson sent an email to Cerebral staff saying the company would stop prescribing most controlled substances to new patients on May 20 and existing patients by mid-October. A company spokesperson confirmed the report. Cerebral had previously announced it would stop prescribing stimulants to new patients on May 4. Three days later the company acknowledged it had received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York related to “possible violations of the Controlled Substances Act.” The federal law regulates the prescribing of medications that have potential for abuse and dependence, including stimulants, like Adderall used to treat ADHD, and benzodiazepines, like Xanax used to treat anxiety. At the time, Cerebral said it has not been accused of violating any law and “intends to fully cooperate with the investigation.”
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, a federal law known as the Ryan-Haight Act required at least one in-person visit for the prescribing of controlled substances, with a few limited exceptions. All Cerebral visits with therapists, psychiatrists and nurse practitioners occur online and it was through the suspension of the in-person requirement during the federally declared Covid-19 public health emergency that Cerebral was able to prescribe these medications without an in-person visit to new patients. The public health emergency has been extended by the federal government every 90 days since January 2020, and the current extension is set to expire in mid-July.
In April, Matthew Truebe, Cerebral’s former vice president of product and engineering, filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired in retaliation for speaking up about unlawful and unethical business practices, including overprescribing stimulants to treat ADHD and failing to report patient data breaches. A spokesperson said the allegations in the complaint are “not true” and the company will “vigorously defend ourselves against these false and unfounded allegations.”