Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Brainswave, a Stock to Watch
Brainswave is an Israeli startup with one product: a transcranial magnetic antidepressant. I ridiculed the idea before because it seemed to me another pseudomedical instrument based on an old, discredit idea, but it is not. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first TMS system, called NeuroStar, made by Neuronetics Inc. of Malvern, Pa., to treat patients who haven't responded to at least one antidepressant. Roughly 5% of U.S. adults suffer from major depression in a given year, and as many as 40% of them don't get adequate relief from psychotherapy or drugs.
For those who have failed other therapy, TMS is still no panacea. In a clinical trial of 325 patients at 23 sites in the U.S., Canada and Australia, only 24% improved on TMS, but that was twice the response to the placebo. Side effects were mild -- mostly scalp irritation and headaches -- and there was no weight gain or sexual side effects as with some antidepressants. And unlike electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also used to treat severe depression, patients remain awake and don't need anesthesia. There's no confusion or memory loss as sometimes happens with ECT.