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MedCity 11/02/2016

Alternative to Opioids for Chronic Pain?

Quell Wearable Pain Relief

Around 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. To complicate matters, millions are also struggling with opioid addiction, driving intensive efforts to find pain management alternatives.

“A lot of people are suffering from lower back pain, sciatica, fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetic nerve pain. These are people who have been dealing with pain for months or years,” said Frank McGillin, senior vice president and general manager of Consumer Health at NeuroMetrix in a phone interview. “One common thread is they’re not satisfied with their current level of relief, and they’re really looking for something that is drug-free.”

McGillin believes that Waltham Massachusetts-based NeuroMetrix may have a solution in Quell, the company’s high-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device, which has been approved by the FDA for over-the-counter use.

“By stimulating the nerves at the right frequency, over the right period of time, it stimulates a response in the central nervous system, releasing an endogenous opioid, a natural pain blocker,” he said.

NeuroMetrix was founded 20 years ago by Shai Gozani, a product of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Initially, the company focused on neurodiagnostics – finding better ways to study nerve conduction. They still offer NC-stat, which tests for peripheral neuropathies, but these efforts to understand how the body is wired led them to therapeutics, such as SENSUS, their prescription version of Quell. Now the company is transitioning from digital devices to consumer health.

They are not alone and TENS is not a new approach. The technology was developed in the 1970s, and many companies are embracing it. Axiobionics has been making electrical stimulation devices for two decades, and a quick TENS search on Amazon produces dozens of devices.

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