More Depressing News for Depressives

Hey, remember that nerve implant I blogged about a few weeks ago? News!

First to catch you up in case you don’t feel like clicking that link: this implant was originally designed for epileptics, but the company wanted the FDA to approve it for use as a cure for depression, despite the fact that they had no solid evidence that it worked for that. Science advisors to the FDA unanimously disapproved of the device, but one man overruled them all to push it through.

Aetna, an insurance provider, has decided the $15,000 device will not be covered for use as a cure for depression. Only 183 of 800 providers currently cover it, and even then it’s usually only allowed on a case-by-case basis. (Here’s the NY Times article about it.) This is seen as a pretty major blow to Cyberonics, the maker of the device, and it’s already showing in the stock price. The people who are hurt the worst by the entire ordeal are those who are dealing with severe depression, since they’re sick and desperate and may look at this device as their last hope. I don’t blame Aetna, though, for causing the damage — I blame Cyberonics. If only they would do the necessary research to prove that this device works, then researchers could approve it, insurers would cover it, and patients would benefit from it. Instead, the company is dicking around with their numbers in the same manner as quacks like homeopaths.

If it works, prove it. Maybe Cyberonics will take that to heart now that their fishy tactics are affecting the bottom line.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I remember the CDC actually admonishing drug makers about finding new and better medications for depression. The CDC seemed to think the drug companies spend too much time promoting stuff they have already spent a lot of money on (that works only ok) instead of really commiting resources to new depression medications.

    It's a serious, dangerous illness. And because of the stigma, it's often overlooked. It would be great if some new things were tried, but researched first. Electric shock was the big news awhile ago. But, still very imperfect, and not a great help.

  2. Well, maybe not. Aetna have a recent track record of ignoring advances in modern medicine that involve non-drug related treatments. Nerves? Or just bad advice? Who knows?

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