The UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published guidance that electroCore’s non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation treatment (gammaCore) for the prevention and acute treatment of migraine and cluster headache is safe and can now be used in the NHS.
The guidance issued by NICE showed that among the five separate clinical trials of gammaCore they reviewed, many patients experienced substantial and meaningful benefit from the therapy.
Among cluster headache patients, this benefit included significantly fewer headache attacks, complete headache relief in some patients within minutes of using the device, supplementary headache treatments were needed on fewer occasions, and there was an improved quality of life.
In the migraine trials reviewed, NICE found that there was pain relief in about half the patients and complete pain relief in around twenty percent of patients within two hours of using gammaCore. They also found that there was relief from sickness, sensitivity to light and noise in up to fifty percent of patients, recovery from disability in about thirty percent of patient within two hours and additional migraine treatments were only needed in about half the patients two hours after treatment.
The gammaCore device, which is CE marked, is widely used across the world and is available across the UK at specialist headache clinics and through neurologists.
The treatment is easily self-administered by patients, by placing the gammaCore on the side of the neck, over the vagus nerve (where the pulse is felt), and stimulating for two minutes. Multiple doses can be administered, with a typical treatment lasting between four and six minutes. The number of treatments per day is dependent on the type of headache and treatment regimen advised by the treating clinician.
Two of the benefits of gammaCore are, first, that there are no serious side effects, particularly compared to other headache treatments (a few patients experienced a local skin irritation at the site of stimulation, but that was mild and transient), and second, that patients can take existing medications without any known drug interaction side effects. This allows the patient to decrease the use of some of their existing medications or to use combination treatments with minimal risk.