LAS VEGAS — Ask legal opioid users if they’d toss their prescriptions if their pain could be managed another way and their answers would most assuredly be yes.
Right? So maybe technology can help.
One of the showcased products at CES 2019 in Las Vegas was Quell 2.0 from NeuroMetrix, a wearable neurostimulator that delivers pain-blocking pulses to the brain that in turn cause the release of endogenous opioids — those naturally produced by the body.
“It’s the only wearable pain device the FDA’s approved to wear while sleeping,” said Vanessa Thomas, director of consumer marketing for the company.
And while this product isn’t completely new — Quell was introduced in 2015 — this latest version, showcased at CES, is smaller and more portable. The hardware includes a strap that wraps around the calf and a hand device to control the pain therapy and calibrate the system on a personal scale, as well as a package of electrodes that must be inserted onto the leg band and changed every two weeks or so.
The initial 30-day pain management package costs about $299. Because the device is considered over-the-counter, insurance companies typically don’t offer coverage. But pre-tax, flex spending accounts will usually pick up the tab, Thomas said.
This is not a surefire substitute for all chronic pain sufferers, said NeuroMetrix CEO Shai Gozani, also at CES 2019. But as a Quell user himself — as a chronic back pain sufferer himself — it does make the day-to-day quite doable once again, he said.
“It can lessen dependency on drugs … lessen the burden of opioids,” Gozani said. “It doesn’t make the pain go away. But it gets you to the point where you can deal with it.”
Moreover, it does that minus the high, minus the oft-debilitating addictions, and minus the social stigmas that oftentimes come with regular opioid use.
“This is not a point-for-point alternative for opioids,” he said, adding that while opioids are sometimes overused, they’re also useful and necessary for some pain sufferers.
Still, options are always good; if a drug-free alternative works, why not go for it? That’s NeuroMetrix’s view.
And since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017 the number of overdose deaths due to opioids grew six times since 1997 — and in 2017, the average number of Americans who died each day from opioid overdosing was 130 — well then, that ought to be America’s view and medical world’s view, too.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.