Therapy App Cut A1c, Drug Intensification in T2D

Previously reported results from this trial, called BT-001, showed that people randomized to use the CBT app had a significant average 0.4 percentage point reduction in hemoglobin A1c, compared with controls, after 90 days for the trial’s primary endpoint, and a significant 0.29 percentage point reduction in A1c, compared with controls, after 180 days.

The new finding, that these incremental drops in A1c occurred while the control patients also received significantly more intensification of their antihyperglycemic medication, provides further evidence for the efficacy of the CBT app, said Marc P. Bonaca, MD, in a press conference organized by the American College of Cardiology in advance of its upcoming joint scientific sessions.

The CBT app “significantly reduced A1c despite less intensification of antihyperglycemic therapy,” noted Dr. Bonaca, a vascular medicine specialist and executive director of CPC Clinical Research, an academic research organization created by and affiliated with the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora.

Based on positive safety and efficacy findings from the primary-endpoint phase of the BT-001 trial, reported in Diabetes Care, the company developing the CBT app, Better Therapeutics, said in a statement that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted the company’s application for de novo classification and marketing approval of the app, also called BT-001. If the agency grants this classification and marketing approval, the company plans to sell the app on a prescription basis for use by people with type 2 diabetes.

CBT app gives patients problem-solving skills

CBT gives people with type 2 diabetes a way to better understand their unhelpful behaviors and motivations and teaches them problem-solving skills. Providing this counseling via an app addresses the challenge of making the intervention scalable to a broad range of patients, Dr. Bonaca explained.

“Clinicians are frustrated by trying to produce behavioral change” in patients. The BT-001 app “provides a new avenue to treatment,” an approach that clinicians have been “very receptive” to using “once they understand the mechanism,” Dr. Bonaca said during the press conference. “The effect at 90 days was very similar to what a drug would do. It’s not just drugs any more” for treating people with type 2 diabetes, he declared.

“CBT is an empirically supported psychotherapy for a variety of emotional disorders, and it has been adapted to target specific emotional distress in the context of chronic illness,” commented  Amit Shapira, PhD , a clinical psychologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston who has not been involved in the BT-001 studies. A CBT protocol designed for diabetes, CBT for Adherence and Depression “has been shown to have a positive impact on depression symptoms and glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Shapira noted in an interview.

“Once a physician explains this [CBT] app and patients understand how to use it, then patients will be happy to use it,” commented Julia Grapsa, MD, PhD, a cardiologist at St. Thomas Hospital in London, who moderated the press conference. “We may see an explosion of apps like this one, designed to help better control” other chronic disorders, such as elevated blood pressure or abnormal lipid levels, Dr. Grapsa predicted. “I’m very optimistic that these apps have a great future in health care.”

Forty percent relative cut in new antihyperglycemic drug use

The BT-001 study randomized 669 adults with smartphone access and type 2 diabetes at any of six U.S. sites. The enrolled patients had type 2 diabetes for an average of 11 years, and an A1c of 7%-10.9% with an average level of 8.2%. Participants had to be on a stable medication regimen for at least 3 months but not using prandial insulin, and their treatment regimens could undergo adjustment during the trial. At baseline, each subject was on an average of 2.1 antihyperglycemic medications, including 90% on metformin and 42% on a sulfonylurea.

The new results reported by Dr. Bonaca showed that, during follow-up, people using the app had a 14.4% rate of antihyperglycemic drug intensification compared with a 24.4% rate among the controls, a roughly 40% relative decrease in new antihyperglycemic medication use. In addition, among those using insulin at baseline, 3.8% of controls increased their insulin dose, compared with 1.5% of those using the CBT app, while insulin doses decreased in 0.9% of the control subjects and in 2.2% of those using the BT-001 app.

Further study findings, first reported by Dr. Bonaca at the American Heart Association scientific sessions in late 2022, also showed a clear dose-response pattern for the CBT app: the more CBT lessons a person completed, the greater their reduction in A1c over 180 days of app use. People who used the app fewer than 10 times had an average reduction from baseline in their A1c of less than 0.1 percentage points. Among those who used the app 10-20 times (a subgroup with roughly one-third of the people randomized to app use), average A1c reduction increased to about 0.4 percentage points, and among those who used the app more than 20 times (also about one-third of the intervention group), the average A1c reduction from baseline was about 0.6 percentage points.

“It would be interesting to learn more about the adults who engaged with the app” and had a higher use rate “to provide more targeted care” with the app to people who match the profiles of those who were more likely to use the app during the trial, said Dr. Shapira.

This “clear” dose-response relationship “was one of the most exciting findings. It helps validate the mechanism,” Dr. Bonaca said during the press conference. “We’re now modeling which patients were the most engaged” with using the app, and “looking at ways to increase app engagement.”

Better Therapeutics also announced, in December 2022, results from a separate, uncontrolled study of a similar CBT app in 19 people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. The findings showed that use of the tested app linked with an average 16% drop from baseline in liver fat content as measured by MRI, as well as other improvements in markers of hepatic function. The company said in a statement that based on these findings it planned to apply for breakthrough-device designation with the FDA for use of a liver-specific CBT app in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

The BT-001 trial was sponsored by Better Therapeutics, the company developing the app. CPC Clinical Research receives research and consulting funding from numerous companies. Dr. Bonaca has been a consultant to Audentes, and is a stockholder of Medtronic and Pfizer. Dr. Shapira and Dr. Grapsa had no disclosures.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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