From ‘Wwearables to Ther-Ables’
Quell Wearable Pain Relief Technology
Much of the buzz coming out of the annual South by Southwest festival has to do with the festival’s music and film components, but for 17 years, SXSW Interactive has celebrated innovation in various fields, including wearable technology. This year, the Waltham, Mass.-based NeuroMetrix won the top award in that category for its Quell Wearable Pain Relief Technology.
The $249 device — which sells on Quell’s website, Amazon, and hit Target.com and about 500 stores in mid-April — is worn around the calf and uses electrodes to stimulate sensory nerves, which send neural pulses to the brain, triggering a pain-relief response. Unlike TENS devices, Quell uses a different type of nerve stimulation to deliver what the company says is more powerful pain relief that customizes itself to the user through Quell’s OptiTherapy. Quell is approved by the Food and Drug Administration with indications for temporary pain relief, and management and relief of chronic pain. In clinical trials, the company has seen 81% of participants report an improvement in pain.
NeuroMetrix SVP and general manager of consumer health Frank McGillin said Quell is aimed at providing a service to a population that hasn’t been served by the current crop of wearable products.
“Today, in terms of a serious therapeutic wearable device for chronic pain, we’re pretty unique,” McGillin said. “There’s been an adoption of fitness trackers … and obviously rapid growth of those primarily around the worried well — they’re either active people trying to be even more active or they’re focused on their health. But there’s this large population of Americans suffering from chronic disease, and current devices aren’t addressing what their needs are.”
In some cases of chronic pain — which the most recent survey by the National Institute of Health says affects nearly 50 million Americans — addressing patient needs also can reduce medication use. In clinical trials, about two-thirds of participants reduced their medication use when using Quell, which McGillin said makes Quell a versatile treatment, potentially replacing medication in some cases, though he stressed that patients should consult their doctors on those matters.
“Looking at some of the big problems to be solved, chronic pain ranks up there. I think $50 billion [is] spent on the treatment of chronic pain, yet [more than] half the people are saying their pain isn’t adequately controlled. So we’re new as a technology, new as a brand, and we’re trying to both build the awareness and make Quell available to the people it’ll help,” he said.
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