On April 1st, the NHS effected a new Medtech Funding Mandate policy which aims to bring about an increased use of effective and affordable medical technology. As part of this program, the NHS approved the use of a gadget called gammaCore that helps relieve cluster headaches.
Cluster headaches are described as short, intense, and recurrent headaches around one eye. It is the least common type of headache. The main nerve affected is trigeminal. However, the reason for this nerve stimulation is still unclear.
gammaCore is a small, handheld device that can be held against the neck. There, it sends an innocuous electric current to stimulate the Vagus nerve(nVNS). This nerve is a modulator, which means that it can relax the overactive trigeminal nerve, alleviating cluster headaches. This new non-invasive way to stimulate the vagus nerve can help patients avoid drug-induced side effects. Patients can also administer this treatment at home.
Cluster headache is a debilitating condition that affects at least 1 person in 1000. These headaches usually do not respond to painkillers, which makes this new technology so important.
According to NHS medical director, Stephen Powis,
“While they may be small, these devices will make a huge difference to people who suffer from these debilitating headaches – relieving painful symptoms and allow people to go about their daily lives as normal.”
The FDA previously approved gammaCore for the prevention and treatment of cluster headaches and migraines in adult patients. In February of 2021, they expanded this clearance to include adolescent patients between 12 to 17 years old.
According to Dr. Andrew Hershey, Director of Neurology at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center and Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine:
“Migraine is a very common disease in adolescents that can affect them at home, school, and socially. gammaCore, which can be used acutely to treat migraine attacks, or when used daily can decrease the number of attacks, is an exciting treatment that I look forward to offering to my adolescent patients.
Other uses for nVNS
Recently, the FDA also authorized the emergency use of gammaCore Sapphire to treat asthmatic patients suffering from COVID 19.
“Results from prior pilot studies that evaluated gammaCore for the acute treatment of asthma support our belief that nVNS may provide much-needed relief to patients who are experiencing asthma-related breathing difficulty, which can be particularly debilitating in patients with COVID-19.” Said Peter Staats, MD, Chief Medical Officer, electroCore.