NeuroMetrix is a commercial stage, innovation driven healthcare company combining neurostimulation and digital medicine to address chronic health conditions including chronic pain, sleep disorders, and diabetes. The company's lead product is Quell, an over-the-counter wearable therapeutic device for chronic pain. Quell is integrated into a digital health platform that helps patients optimize their therapy and decrease the impact of chronic pain on their quality of life. The company also markets DPNCheck®, a rapid point-of-care test for diabetic neuropathy, which is the most common long-term complication of Type 2 diabetes. The company is located in Waltham, Massachusetts and was founded as a spinoff from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in 1996.
Chronic pain is a significant public health problem. It is defined by the National Institutes of Health as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks in contrast to acute pain which is a normal bodily response to injury or trauma. Chronic pain conditions include painful diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, sciatica, musculoskeletal pain, cancer pain and many others. Chronic pain may be triggered by an injury or there may be an ongoing cause such as disease or illness. There may also be no clear cause. Pain signals continue to be transmitted in the nervous system over extended periods of time often leading to other health problems. These can include fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes which cause difficulty in carrying out important activities and contributing to disability and despair. In general, chronic pain cannot be cured. Treatment of chronic pain is focused on reducing pain and improving function. The goal is effective pain management.
Chronic pain is widespread. It affects over 100 million adults in the United States and more than 1.5 billion people worldwide. Within the US chronic pain population one of the largest segments is patients with neuropathic pain estimated at 25 million persons. A significant subset of these patients is persons with diabetes of which 16% to 25% suffer painful diabetic neuropathy, or PDN, estimated at 6 to 8 million patients. The global market for pain management drugs and devices alone was valued at $35 billion in 2012. The estimated incremental impact of chronic pain on health care costs in the United States is over $250 billion per year and lost productivity is estimated to exceed $300 billion per year.
The most common approach to chronic pain is pain medication. This includes over-the-counter drugs (such as Advil and Motrin), and prescription drugs including anti-convulsants (such as Lyrica and Neurontin) and anti-depressants (such as Cymbalta and Elavil). Topical creams may also be used (such as Zostrix and Bengay). With severe pain, narcotic pain medications may be prescribed (such as codeine, fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone). The approach to treatment is individualized, drug combinations may be employed, and the results are often hit or miss. Side effects and the potential for addiction are real and the risks are substantial.
Reflecting the difficulty in treating chronic pain, inadequate relief leads 25 to 50% of pain sufferers to turn to the over-the-counter market for supplements or alternatives to prescription pain medications. These include non-prescription medications, topical creams, lotions, electrical stimulators, dietary products, braces, sleeves, pads and other items. In total they account for over $4 billion in annual spending in the United States on pain relief products.
High frequency nerve stimulation is an established treatment for chronic pain supported by numerous clinical studies demonstrating efficacy. In simplified outline, the mechanism of action involves intensive nerve stimulation to activate the body’s central pain inhibition system resulting in widespread analgesia, or pain relief. The nerve stimulation activates brainstem pain centers leading to the release of endogenous opioids that act primarily through the delta opioid receptor to reduce pain signal transmission through the central nervous system. This therapeutic approach is available through deep brain stimulation and through implantable spinal cord stimulation, both of which require surgery and have attendant risks. Non-invasive approaches to neuro-stimulation (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS) have achieved limited efficacy in practice due to device limitations, ineffective dosing and low patient compliance.
There are large and important unmet medical needs in chronic pain treatment. Prescription pain medications and over-the-counter therapies are often inadequate and can lead to other health issues. We believe that controlled, personalized, neuro-stimulation to suppress pain provides an important complement to pain medications. As a medical device company with unique experience in designing devices to manage and alter peripheral nerve function, we believe we are well positioned to make neuro-stimulation widely available to chronic pain sufferers.
Our Business Model
Our products consist of a medical device used in conjunction with a consumable electrode or biosensor. Other accessories and consumables are also available to customers. Our goal for these devices is to build an installed base of active customer accounts and distributors that regularly order aftermarket products to meet their needs. We successfully implemented this model when we started our business with the NC-stat system and applied it to subsequent product generations including the ADVANCE system. Our recently developed products, Quell and DPNCheck, conform to this model.
Quell is a 100% drug free wearable device that has been FDA cleared for relief of chronic pain. It incorporates a collection of proprietary approaches designed to optimize the clinical efficacy of nerve stimulation. These include high power electrical stimulation hardware with precise control, algorithms that automatically determine a therapeutic stimulation intensity and compensate for nerve desensitization, and automated detection of user sleep and appropriate adjustment of stimulation level. Quell is comprised of (1) an electronic device carried in a neoprene band that is worn on the upper calf and (2) an electrode that attaches to the device and is the interface between the device and the skin and (3) the Quell app which is used to personalize therapy and track progress. The device is lightweight and can be worn during the day while active, and at night while sleeping. Over 150,000 people have experienced Quell technology since the device first shipped in the second quarter of 2015. Our marketing strategy focuses on a direct-to-consumer approach through the company’s website and select partners in order to educate consumers and maximize lifetime value.
DPNCheck is a fast, accurate, and quantitative nerve conduction test that is used to evaluate systemic neuropathies such as DPN. It is designed to be used by primary care physicians, endocrinologists, podiatrists and other clinicians at the point-of-care to objectively detect, stage, and monitor DPN. The device measures nerve conduction velocity and response amplitude of the sural nerve, a nerve in the lower leg and ankle. These parameters are widely recognized as sensitive and specific biomarkers of DPN. DPNCheck is comprised of: (1) an electronic hand-held device and (2) a single patient use biosensor. In addition, we provide users with PC-based software that links to the device via a USB connection. This PC software allows physicians to generate reports and manage their sural nerve conduction data.
DPNCheck is a modified version of our previously marketed NC-stat nerve testing device and has the same clinical indications with respect to DPN. More than 2 million patient studies have been performed using our NC-stat technology and it has been the subject of many published studies, including several studies specifically addressing the accuracy and clinical utility of the device in assessment of DPN.
Our legacy neurodiagnostics business is based on the ADVANCE System which is a comprehensive platform for the performance of traditional nerve conduction studies. The ADVANCE System is comprised of: (1) the ADVANCE device and related modules, (2) various types of electrodes, and (3) a communication hub that enables the physician’s office to network their device to their personal computers and our servers for data archiving, report generation, and other network services. The ADVANCE System is most commonly used with proprietary nerve specific electrode arrays. These electrode arrays combine multiple individual electrodes and embedded microelectronic components into a single patient-use disposable unit. We currently market seven different nerve specific electrode arrays.