Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Doing the Right Thing

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Doing the Right Thing

Article excerpt

This past summer, a landmark study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association determined that Risperdal and other popular anti-depressants were ineffective in treating soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). Despite this evidence, standard practice in the VA is that nearly 90% of veterans with PTS treated with drugs are prescribed these medications, often at the exclusion of innovative non-drug therapies available to the civilian population.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, also known as rTMS, is one non-drug therapy. The published research on rTMS is impeccable, some of the best in the non-drug therapy industry (full disclosure: rTMS is a competing technology to my own company's tech, so my praise is hard won. rTMS manufacturers have done a terrific job proving their effectiveness). rTMS treats depression by utilizing powerful magnets close to the head that stimulate neurochemical production. It has been shown to produce better results than placebo when treating patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and is approved by the FDA. The downside is that patients need to travel to a psychiatrist's office and sit in a special chair as the doctor positions the magnets and operates the machine. A series of rTMS treatments costs patients $8,000-$12,000 out of pocket and comes with no guarantee of effectiveness. As you can imagine, manufacturers of rTMS have raised enormous amounts of venture capital--not surprising when you have a product that costs doctors $70,000 plus expensive service contracts and costs patients $8,000-$12,000. Given the millions of veterans from multiple wars who suffer from PTS related depression (500,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan alone suffer from neuropsychiatric conditions), the cost of treating them with rTMS could run into the tens of billions of dollars. This is simply not economically feasible at a time when budgets are being cut in every sector of government and charitable giving is on the decline.

Regardless, the Risperdal study demands that effective non-drug therapies be made available to returning soldiers on a large scale, because drugs simply aren't working.

This is where my personal bias comes into play. My company, Fisher Wallace Laboratories, and handful of other manufacturers are beginning to offer soldiers an affordable alternative to rTMS and pharmaceutical drugs for the treatment of depression, anxiety and insomnia. Fisher Wallace Laboratories manufactures a portable, home-use medical device called the Fisher Wallace Stimulator that delivers a gentle electrical current instead of using big magnets to stimulate neurochemical production (primarily GABA, serotonin and beta-endorphins). By increasing GABA in the brain, we are mimicking the effect of Ambien without the side effects, addiction and feeling of sedation one often gets with Ambien in the morning. As with rTMS, the worst side effect you can get is a headache or some dizziness. Compare that to the list of possible antidepressant side effects, such as severe nausea and suicidal thoughts.

The best part is that the technology--called Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)--works so well. So much so, that Fisher Wallace Laboratories can afford to offer patients a 60-day return policy: if the device doesn't successfully treat their symptoms, they can return it within 60 days for a refund. The price for a Fisher Wallace Stimulator is $695, retail, and $495 for veterans and active duty service members.


That's my elevator pitch. But there's a lot more than my own words backing this up. Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation has had FDA clearance since 1991, and a long track record of safety and effectiveness. There are scores of quality studies that have been published on it, albeit not of the same size and scope that rTMS manufacturers have been able to afford for their technology.

CES manufacturers are not as attractive to venture capitalists because we don't offer doctors the same kind of profitable business model that incentivizes doctors to put patients into rTMS chairs. …

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