Understanding Hidden Regions of the Brain and Combating the Opioid Epidemic

AABM News Roundup: December 2020

Photo by Uriel SC on Unsplash

Lead Stories: December 2020

Researchers at Lehigh University have made an important breakthrough: physiological evidence that a pervasive neuromodulation system — a group of neurons that controls the way more specialized neurons function — strongly influences how a key auditory region of our brain processes sound. As R. Michael Burger, professor of neuroscience and a co-author of the study, explains:

“this study will likely bring new attention in the field to the ways in which circuits like this, widely considered a ‘simple’ one, are in fact highly complex and subject to modulatory influence like higher regions of the brain.”

More information on this groundbreaking research can be found here: Study Sheds Light on How Brain Distinguishes Speech from Noise, Lehigh University, December 18, 2020

Vanila Singh, an anesthesiologist and pain management expert at Stanford, discusses the urgent need for non-pharmacologic treatment for pain in context of the ongoing U.S. opioid epidemic, which is “hidden in the shadows” of Covid-19. Recent rules to combat the “overutilization” of certain treatments have made it much more difficult for Medicare patients to find pain relief, Singh argues, including neuromodulation:

Even more concerning is CMS’s proposal to require prior authorization for neuromodulation treatments such as spinal cord stimulators in the outpatient setting. The effectiveness of neuromodulation — the electrical or pharmaceutical alteration of nerve activity — is backed by strong clinical evidence. It can reduce nerve-related pain and improve function among people with high impact chronic pain.

For more about regulations are adding to patients burdens, see: Misguided federal regulations are likely to cause more pain in people already living with it, STAT, December 2, 2020

ElectroCore’s gammaCore nVNS has been selected for evaluation in a National Institute on Drug Abuse-supported study for the treatment of opioid use disorders. Dr. Douglas Bremner, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Radiology at the Emory University School of Medicine explains:

“the use of nVNS during the opioid withdrawal period represents a potential new innovation versus current treatments that rely on medication and counseling, widely acknowledged to have limitations during this critical period.”

To learn more about this cutting-edge study, read the recent announcement: electroCore Announces Selection of gammaCore for National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-Sponsored Study in Opioid Use Disorders.” press release, December 1, 2020

More Bioelectronic Medicine Headlines From December

Corporate News

electroCore, Inc. Announces Agreement with Pro Medical Baltic to be Exclusive Distributor for gammaCore Sapphire in Eastern Europe, press release, December 21, 2020

  • electroCore, Inc. will work with Pro Medical Baltic (PMB) to deliver nVNS treatment to patients suffering from headache disorders in Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

NeuroSigma’s Monarch eTNS for Pediatric ADHD Featured in MD+DI’s List of the 10 Wearable Medical Devices that Redefined Healthcare, press release, December 17, 2020

  • NeuroSigma shared its appreciation for inclusion on MD+DI’s list of “10 cleared or approved wearable medical devices by FDA that have caused a paradigm shift in healthcare.” The list was released in September 2020.

Boston Scientific, Nevro agree to nix 1 patent lawsuit, but other legal fights go on, MedTech Dive, December 15, 2020

  • Nevro, a California medical device company providing chronic pain treatments, has dismissed its patent case against Boston Scientific relating to high-frequency spinal cord stimulation therapy. Boston Scientific does not have plans to commercially launch a high-frequency SCS.

Research News

FEFU scientists suggest using neuromodulation to treat patients with spinal cord injuries, Eureka Alert!, December 10, 2020

  • A team of researchers from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) is recommending SCS be used as the new treatment protocol for severe spasticity, one of the main complications after certain types of spinal cord injury. The FEFU team suggests that SCS is a more effective alternative to Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy (IBT) which involves a pump implanted in the patient’s body to deliver a muscle relaxer.

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