Psychiatric Support Groups

This has been a good month for neurotechnology firms hoping to participate in the psychiatric disorders market. Several vendors presented promising results at scientific meetings such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, and the Society of Biological Psychiatry annual meetings [see Conference Report, p6 and News Briefs, p4].

While none of the vendors we report on in this issue have yet had their systems approved by the FDA, the data that has been presented by each of them is encouraging and each of the players occupies a unique niche in a potential psychiatric disorder marketplace. Neuronetics’ NeuroStar device has the advantage of being the least invasive neurotech intervention. Medtronic has the advantage of a DBS system that has been approved for other neurological disorders and that has amassed an enormous amount of data relating to safety, performance, and stimulation parameters. St. Jude Medical’s Libra therapy has the advantage of a unique and very promising target in Bordmann Area 25. And Aspect Medical’s Antidepressant Treatment Response biomarker has the advantage of potentially serving as an adjunct to multiple therapeutic interventions for psychiatric disorders.

As such, we foresee a future psychiatry practice whose repertoire of therapeutic interventions and diagnostic tests is much more robust than exists today. Just as clinicians in specialties such as orthopedics or neurology have invested in imaging and surgical tools to complement their practices, biological psychiatrists will have access to eletrophysiological diagnostics, transcranial magnetic stimulation systems, and relationships with neurological surgeons and facilities experienced with DBS implantation procedures.

At this point, the only FDA approved neurotechnology device intervention for psychiatric disorders is Cyberonics’ vagus nerve stimulation system, which is still languishing for want of reimbursement. It remains to be seen how Cyberonics and VNS will fit into this new competitive landscape of neurotech vendors targeting depression and other psych disorders. But vendors wishing to compete in this new market would be wise to study carefully Cyberonics’ experiences with regulatory agencies and with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It seems to us that the simultaneous emergence of several different neurotechnology device approaches to the psychiatric disorder market is itself an advantage, a sort of safety in numbers that Cyberonics did not enjoy. So our advice to new players entering this market is to exploit that advantage, looking for ways to cooperate with other vendors and clinical specialties and avoiding the temptation to trash competitive approaches in the process of commercializing their own products.

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher



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