Neurotech Resurfaces

In the few weeks since we published Jennifer French’s article about the surface stimulation market rebounding [NBR Jun16 p1], a number of new developments have emerged that further make her case. First, as we report on page 4 of this issue, pharmaceutical giant Bayer has entered the TENS market with its Aleve direct therapy device for back pain. The compact, adhesive device, which is available for under $50 at some retailers, could be the shot in the arm that the TENS market has needed since DJO Global divested its Empi unit last year.

Interestingly, the device bears resemblance to a TENS pain control bandage developed more than a decade ago by a Florida company called Cyclotec Medical Industries, Inc. [NBR Apr03 p1]. “The emergence of over-the-counter, low-cost adhesive stimulators would address both the reimbursement and clinician reluctance issues, while targeting the devices at a market segment that could hardly be considered competitive with implanted stimulators,” we wrote in our article 13 years ago. One can only wonder what the TENS market might look like today had it not been blindsided by CMS, private insurers, and state workers comp agencies who were so concerned about cost effectiveness of pain therapies but not that worried about a growing opioid addiction crisis in our nation.

We were also pleased to see positive developments from surface stimulation companies Helius Medical [see article, p5] and ElectroCore Medical [see article, p4]. And while SPR Therapeutics’ newly approved SPRINT device [see article, p4] is not strictly a surface stimulation device, it certainly could be considered a wearable pain stimulation system.

In the area of headache pain, Cefaly Technology announced a major revision to its surface stimulation system for treatment of migraine. The Cefaly II trigeminal nerve stimulator, which gained popularity for its unique headband-like shape, is now three-quarters the size of the original device, fits in the palm of your hand, is rechargeable, uses magnets to stay in place, and allows users more control over the intensity of their daily session. The company reports that in clinical trials 81 percent of compliant patients showed a significant reduction in migraine attacks and up to a 75 percent reduction in consumption of migraine medications.

Together, these developments demonstrate that the market for pain therapies based on surface electrical stimulation is anything but dormant. The fact that large pharmaceutical firms like Bayer, which is marketing its own device, and Merck, which has invested in ElectroCore Medical, have put their money in the pot should be seen as a positive sign for neurotech startups pursuing the surface stimulation market.

James Cavuoto

Editor and Publisher

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