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Electronic Patch Offers Pain Relief, Cuts Medication Use

Knee X-ray

(Akha, Wikimedia Commons)

29 March 2016. A study of customers using an electronic patch to relieve chronic pain, shows the patch relieves muscular and skeleton pain over 6 months, enabling its users to reduce their need for pain drugs. The study was done by BioElectronics Corp. in Frederick, Maryland, developer of the device, which expects to present the results at a meeting of the British Pain Society in May 2016.

Controlling chronic pain is becoming more difficult with the increasing problems associated with opioid drugs often prescribed for pain relief. Opioids work by reducing the intensity of pain signals to the brain, particularly regions of the brain controlling emotion, which reduces effects of the pain stimulus. Abuse of opioid pain killers is described by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a growing epidemic, fueled in part by growing numbers of prescriptions written for pain-killing drugs.

CDC reports that in 2012, physicians in the U.S. wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain killers, enough for one bottle of pills for every adult in the country, with more Americans now dying each year from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle crashes. Earlier this month, the agency issued new guidelines for pain medications, giving first priority to non-opioid therapies for cases other than cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care.

The BioElectronics device, known as ActiPatch, emits radio-frequency, or RF, waves that interact with tissue to decrease inflammation and sensitization to pain. The device adopts stochastic resonance, a principle from physics where adding random noise to a signal in the right way and right time can improve the detection of that signal. In this case, says the company, the amplified signals stimulate afferent nerves that carry impulses to the central nervous system, increasing non-painful sensory traffic to the brain and decreasing perceptions of pain from the affected area.

BioElectronics makes different ActiPatch models for the knee, back, and use on other joints and muscles including neck, shoulder, hip, wrist, and ankle. The patch is used continually at first, then cut back to as little as 6 hours a day. The company says wearers of the device feel no heat or vibration from the patch, which can be worn overnight.

The study tracks 224 ActiPatch customers for 6 months, from 254 participants who originally enrolled. The company says 9 in 10 respondents (90%) experienced relief from their pain during the 6 month period, with about that number (89%) reporting more physical activity and 7 in 10 (71%) saying their quality of life improved. No side effects were reported, says BioElectronics, from any of the respondents.

In addition, the company reports nearly 9 in 10 respondents (86%) say they decreased their use of pain medications, including prescribed drugs with narcotics. About two-thirds of the respondents (68%) say they experienced adverse effects from pain medications, and a somewhat higher percentage (71%) indicate they now experience fewer adverse effects from pain drugs.

Another result of using ActiPatch, says BioElectronics, is time and money savings. About two-thirds of respondents (65%) report fewer visits to the doctor because of their pain, and the same number say they’re spending less money on pain therapies.

ActiPatch is approved for sale in Canada, parts of Europe, and Australia and New Zealand. The device is not yet approved for sale in the U.S., but the company filed for premarket clearance with FDA in August 2015.

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