Up to 1.5 million Swedes are suffering from migraine, and it is thus one of Sweden’s most common diseases. Migraines are characterised by severe pulsating headaches that come in attacks and cause physical and mental suffering for the patients but also great costs to society. The medical technology company Chordate Medical wants to relieve chronic migraines with Kinetic Oscillation Stimulation – a preventive treatment method that does not rely on pharmaceuticals.
Chordate Medical’s nerve stimulation technology, Kinetic Oscillation Stimulation, K.O.S., was initially conceived as a treatment for chronic nasal congestion (rhinitis), but the company discovered that some patients also experienced significant migraine relief. The discovery opened a new development track in the company’s pipeline, and the treatment is now being evaluated in a clinical study on chronic migraine at nine clinics in Germany and Finland.
The study is currently paused but will start in Finland again after healthcare professionals have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Read more here.
Chronic migraine impairs quality of life
A distinction is usually made between episodic migraine, which occurs from time to time, and chronic migraine. Chronic migraine is defined as having a headache on at least 15 days per month, of which at least 8 days are with migraines. Approximately 200 000 people in Sweden suffer from chronic migraine. Many of them have to take sick leave several days a month due to the severe headaches and other troublesome symptoms, such as nausea and intense sensitivity to light.
Read more about the symptoms of migraines in Chordate Medical tackles chronic migraines
In other words, the socio-economic consequences of migraines is substantial, coming both in the form of absence from work and of healthcare costs. The total cost in the EU of headache disorders is estimated at 173 billion euros per year, of which migraines account for 64 per cent of the costs.
Limited effect and side effects with current treatments
There is a great demand for new treatment methods as today’s treatments often have insufficient effect or pronounced side effects. Today, pharmaceuticals are mainly used to treat chronic migraine. Some of these drugs are effective initially, but then their effectiveness usually decreases over time, which means that the patient has to switch to other drugs. Overuse of drugs can aggravate the headache.
Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and NSAIDs, are often used to relieve headaches in migraines. If these do not help, there are migraine-specific drugs, so-called triptans, etc. One problem with triptans, however, is that they can lead to side effects such as dizziness, pressure over the chest and fatigue. Since triptans are vasoconstrictors, they are not suitable for patients with cardiovascular disease.
Neurotoxin used for preventive purposes
There are a few medications that are given to prevent migraine attacks, such as beta blockers (pharmaceuticals for high blood pressure), NSAIDs, medicines for epilepsy and antidepressants. However, these are developed for the treatment of conditions other than migraine, which means that the effect is not always satisfactory.
Some migraineurs receive the neurotoxin botulinum (mainly known under the brand name Botox) injected into the face and neck to prevent chronic migraine. The treatment is given about four times a year and each treatment consists of about 30-40 injections. However, Botox injections can come with side effects such as pain in the head and neck, muscle weakness in the face, drooping eyelids, skin rashes and infections.
Chordate Medical’s treatment
The migraine patients that today are treated with Botox are an important target group for Chordate Medical. Like Botox, Chordate Medical’s treatment works preventively and is given in a clinic, which means that a conversion from Botox to K.O.S would not be very cumbersome. The biggest difference, according to the company, is that K.O.S does not cause severe side effects.
The treatment itself is simple and only takes about 20 minutes. A balloon is inserted into the patient’s nasal cavity and then a kinetic oscillating stimulation is started, i.e., a type of vibration. According to the company, this leads to a “normalisation” of the autonomic nervous system, which can potentially help people with migraine who are assumed to have an imbalance/overactivity in the autonomic nervous system.
Great need for new treatments
The need for new treatments for chronic migraine is significant, and a lot of research is being done in this field. In recent years, new treatments for migraines have been developed, such as CGRP inhibitors, a Swedish discovery that works preventively. CGRP is released in connection with migraine attacks, and, by blocking the nerve cells’ receptors for this molecule with CGRP inhibitors, the attacks can be counteracted. However, CGRP inhibitors are very expensive and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. These drugs are thus not a first choice and they become relevant only after other treatments have been tried without a satisfactory effect.
Chordate Medical is one of the companies that contributes to the development and research in chronic migraine. The purpose of the K.O.S treatment is to reduce the number of headache days, which the currently paused migraine study in Finland and Germany intends to demonstrate.
In the next few weeks, the healthcare staff in Finland will be vaccinated, which means that the company can resume and complete the migraine study. Chordate Medical will then be able to draw further conclusions about the benefits of the treatment method compared to available alternatives.
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