Enduring Our Pain
It’s far too early to assess what effect the current coronavirus situation will have on the neurotechnology industry. But the timing is far from optimal. Just at the point when venture capital investment in neurotech startups had reached record levels, the current standstill in economic activity has created a time of uncertainty for entrepreneurs.
The virus’ impact on VC investment will certainly be one of the topics to come up during our third annual Bioelectronic Medicine Forum on April 7. Though the event is taking place on-line instead of Manhattan, there is still significant interest from bioelectronic medicine startups and from investors judging from our pre-registration list.
But there could be some silver lining in the economic storm clouds. Government agencies like the FDA and the NIH have jumped in headfirst, issuing Emergency Use Authorizations and offering up new funding programs. An Ohio congressman has introduced a bill that would expedite patient’s access to neuromodulation therapies. H.R. 5833 improves access to SCS by expanding the use of telehealth for psychological evaluations, which are currently required before patients can be implanted. More than one medical device vendor has pondered whether the current Zoom-mania our nation is experiencing will spill over to the FDA and save them the expense of face-to-face meetings that are currently required.
Make no mistake, the prospect of 100,000 deaths in the U.S. from this virus—as the White House now tells us to expect—is daunting, sobering, and emotionally devastating. But that’s roughly the number of deaths our country endured from opioid overdoses in almost any two-year period in the last two decades. That scourge was brought upon us not by random mutations in a virus that we lack immunity for, but by the avarice of the pharmaceutical industry and the failure of regulators to fully embrace alternative pain therapies. Where was the sense of urgency, the FDA Emergency Use Authorizations, during this dark period in our nation’s healthcare history? While regulators gave a free pass to opioid manufacturers like Purdue, CMS drove the TENS industry out of existence and states allowed workers’ comp insurance companies to block reimbursement for SCS treatment.
Still, our industry has been through dark periods in the past. Indeed this publication began life in September 2001, in the days following the terrorist attacks and the years of economic doldrums that followed. We also survived the financial crisis of 2008.
We have no doubt that the neurotechnology industry will return to its previous strength once this current crisis is resolved. In all likelihood, we will all be stronger for what we have endured, and for what we will have learned in the difficult days that lie ahead.
Editor and Publisher