Cerebral, an embattled telemedicine startup that offers online counseling and medication prescription services, has removed CEO Kyle Robertson from his position atop the $4.8 billion company after U.S. regulators began investigating Cerebral for possible violations of the Controlled Substances Act.
Cerebral announced that it intends to cooperate with the investigation and stated that it hasn’t been accused of violating any law.
Robertson, a company co-founder, will be replaced by Cerebral President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Mou. The company also elevated COO Jessica Muse to President and COO to backfill some of Mou’s previous responsibilities.
Rounding out the company’s leadership developments, Thomas Insel, a former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and an advisor to Cerebral, has joined its board of directors.
The decision to replace Robertson and add Insel to the board came from investors and an independent director who together control four of the board’s seven seats, according to The Wall Street Journal. Robertson didn’t appear to be involved in the decision and reportedly lost access to his corporate Slack account without advance notice.
The leadership overhaul at Cerebral follows the revelation that the startup received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York as part of an investigation into the potential overprescription of stimulants to patients for ADHD.
Cerebral, which was founded in January 2020, achieved hypergrowth during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic as telehealth companies filled the void for mental-health care patients that could no longer easily find in-person treatment. As part of the company’s expansion, it is alleged that Robertson aggressively pushed the company into the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, including the prescription of Adderall, which is classified as a schedule 2 controlled substance, the same category as Vicodin and OxyContin.
Robertson’s fast-paced strategy reportedly drew concern from staff who believed in a slower, more measured approach. In March 2022, The Journal reported that some of the young company’s nurse practitioners felt pressured to prescribe stimulants to patients. One month later major pharmacies, including Walmart and CVS, blocked or delayed prescriptions from telehealth startups after expressing concerns that clinicians at Done Health and Cerebral were writing too many prescriptions for Adderall and other stimulants.
Cerebral’s new CEO and board member bring a wealth of medical experience to the decision-making offices at the telemedicine company. In a press release, Mou stated, “As Cerebral enters its next phase of growth, we look forward to expanding our services, guided as always by evidence-based clinical protocols, to help those who struggle with mental health concerns in silence.”