Bioelectronic therapy proved effective

The Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) has funded a study by the York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) that showed the use of non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) is a cost-effective treatment for patients with medically unexplained symptoms.

The YHEC poster was presented at the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) 19th Annual European Congress alongside an observational study.

This observational study also showed that nVNS treatment significantly reduced the total number of GP appointments and hospital referrals required by these patients.

The research found that up to 66 per cent of patients who suffer from at least three of the following conditions – primary headache, gastric motility disorders, anxiety, depression and widespread chronic pain – experienced an improvement in their overall health following a medication review and after they started nVNS treatment with electroCore’s gammaCore device. Sixty per cent of adult primary headache patients have one or more other medically unexplained symptoms.

Approximately 25 per cent of all GP consultations, and 25 per cent of all hospital referrals, are generated by 10 per cent of the 18 to 70-year-old UK patient population who suffer from multiple medically unexplained symptoms. As a result of the study there was a 19 per cent reduction in the number of GP appointments attended by the patients and a 23 per cent reduction in their number of hospital referrals.

The study was carried out in seven primary care practices across the UK by expert pharmacists from Interface Clinical Services. A total of 233 patients who used the gammaCore nVNS device alongside their existing treatments were assessed after periods of eight weeks and 40 weeks using the EQ-5D-5L quality of life index. Patients reported less pain and discomfort and improved ability to perform their normal daily activities as well as lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Patients were asked to self-administer three nVNS doses per day, with each dose equalling two minutes of electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. Interface pharmacists provided training to patients on how to use the gammaCore device. The patients found the therapy very easy to use at home and reported no serious side effects.

Dr James Ward, GP and GP with a Special Interest in Headache at Oaklands Health Centre in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, said: “We introduced this service into practice in 2014 and, as a result, have improved the way we manage patients with complex medically unexplained symptom multimorbidity. Whilst the patients feel empowered to better manage their health at home.”

This study also comes in the light of recently published NICE guideline describing the need to optimise the care received by patients with multimorbidity. NICE chairman Professor David Haslam commented: “Actually now many patients have multiple problems. People don’t die but live with multiple diseases. Now we need to build care around these people and the vital increasing role of the generalist comes along with this.”

Read the ElectroCore poster here

Read the YHEC poster here