Patients who suffer from cluster headaches, a rare but painful type of headache, are now set to benefit from the latest innovation in portable medical devices.

The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) medical technologies advisory committee has published draft guidance for the National Health Service (NHS) on electroCore’s gammaCore technology, after considering the evidence and expert views at a meeting on 14 June 2019.

Headache treatment

The highlight of the guidance is that using gammaCore in addition to the standard of care (SOC) — sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, and oxygen — could save the NHS £450 ($558.38) per patient in the first year compared to SOC alone.

Recommendations by NICE considered adding gammaCore to patients who did not respond to standard drug treatment options. There is a three-month trial period for this portable technology to assess its efficacy in reducing symptoms.

ElectroCore is a bioelectronic medicine company founded in 2005 in the US. Its sole product, GammaCore, is a portable, non-drug, non-invasive hand-held device that uses a patented electrical stimulation to gently activate the vagus nerve to regulate the pain of a cluster headache.

Beyond relieving severe pain at the beginning of a cluster headache attack, its benefits also include preventing attacks entirely in some patients when used daily. Cluster headache sufferers require high-cost treatments, such as oxygen or surgery. GammaCore can be used as a cost-effective acute abortive treatment.

Cluster headache patients experience excruciating and debilitating attacks of pain that differs from tension headache in the location, severity of pain and frequency of attacks.

A tension headache is not dangerous to a patient’s health. However, cluster headaches might require visiting a healthcare professional to receive a diagnosis. Patients with severe cluster headaches are sometimes considered to be disabled because of the condition. Studies suggest that around 25,000 people in the UK with cluster headache are likely to respond positively to treatment with gammaCore.

Notably, gammaCore is the first and only FDA-approved medical device to prevent and reduce cluster headache attacks. Therefore, electroCore has pioneered the application of gammaCore for the cluster headache indication and paved the road for future competition.

In the past two years, the NHS has been adopting new treatments and tests as part of the NHS’ innovation and technology payment programme, which is fast-tracking the roll-out of the latest technologies across the country.

This recommendation is a great step toward using technology and innovative solutions to improve cost, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and safety in healthcare. It is also a great opportunity for top medical devices companies to invest in advancing innovation and acquiring recent technology start-ups to grow impressively in this broad sector.

NICE invites comments from the public for the final consultation. The final recommendations are expected to be released for August 2019.

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