The most severe, chronic sufferers from migraine headaches and depression may soon be turning to surgery for relief.
Two Minnesota companies are leading the way into the new brain therapies. First, Little Canada's St. Jude Medical might someday make some "green" from the "blues".
Spokesperson Kathleen Janasz notes "More than 20 million people just in the US alone suffer from some form of depression and for 4 million of those people existing approach therapies don't work."
Saint Jude Medical's new approach to depression involves an implanted device that sends electronic stimulation to specific parts of the brain. Limited pilot tests in Canada indicate that what is called the "Broadmann area 25" section of the organ seems to be overactive in "profoundly sad and depressed" people.
St. Jude Medical is beginning clinical trials of their own, mainly at the Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Chicago, to confirm the earlier results in which 56% of patients reported at least a 40% decrease in depression symptoms. The first patients are a 59 year old woman and a 42 year old man. Patients in the study must be 21-70 years old and must have had the first episode of depression before age 45. Janasz warns about expecting too much, too soon.
"The first implant has just occurred and we expect to have that followed by numerous other implants, but the clinical trial itself is likely to take several years before we would know if it meets the standard for safety and efficacy to help patients who are suffering from depression."
Medtronic Corporation of Fridley is poised to unveil new Deep Brain Stimulation research of their own. The announcement at Friday's meeting of the American Headache Society in Boston is a new treatment for Migraine headaches.
Migraines impact more than 28 million Americans, most of them women. It's estimated that 157 million workdays are lost each year because of the debilitating pain. Somewhere between 3-14% of sufferers become chronic and unresponsive to usual medical therapies.
Medtronic's device is implanted in the lower back. Wires lead up the spine to the occipital nerves at the back of the brain in an attempt to head off the Migraines. Their study followed 66 patients at 9 locations for 3 months. The study is called Occitipal Nerve Stimulation for the treatment of Intractable Migraine or ONSTIM.
In the study so far, patients experienced at least a "50% reduction in headache days per month" or a significant "reduction in overall pain intensity".
Neither treatment, if determined safe and effective, will be available to the public for several years.
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