There’s a new technology being developed for smoking cessation that clinical trials indicate works better than behavior modification classes, better that acupuncture, perhaps better than anything. Healthcare administrators should take note of what could become a revolutionary advance in kicking the habit–and in profitable wellness services–especially when used in conjunction with counseling and behavior modification.
After one double-blind test of 30 smokers treated twice a day with this transcranial electrotherapy (TCET) technology, only one person has gone back to cigarettes, says Malcolm Skolnick, Ph.D., TCET research director and director of the Neurophysiology Center at the University of Texas Medical Center, Houston.
Less frequent treatments were less effective, but even with once-a-day TCET (for one week), 60 to 65 percent of those treated quit smoking. In comparison, only 25 percent of those receiving placebos were able to quit.
Pain and drug applications. Research findings have also shown that TCET (pronounced tee-set) looks promising for getting chronic pain sufferers off medication. TCET may also help drug abusers quit and stay off drugs–with minimal withdrawal pains. In the course of patient trials, the technology seemed effective against insomnia and (inexplicably) chronic ringing of the ears–all with no clearly discernible side effects.
Possible applications include obesity, anorexia, and other compulsive behaviors. “When I first heard about TCET, I was so skeptical, I got involved just to show that it didn’t work,” says Skolnick, now a believer.
How it works. Although the technology sounds unusual, its effectiveness has been corroborated during more than five years of research. Basically, a TCET device gives patient electrical shocks–through the ear lobes–in tiny voltages that can’t be felt. The brain responds to these electrical shocks by producing natural opiates that derail addiction, relax the patient, and inhibit paint. (Although similar to TCET devices, the more common TENS pain-control devices work differently–their electric current dilutes the body’s own pain messages but doesn’t stimulate opiate production.)
Who to look to. In late January, an agreement to acquire exclusive U.S. rights to the TCET technology was finalized by NMR Centers, Inc., Newport Beach, CA, a company that operates outpatient diagnostic centers in joint ventures with hospitals and physicians.
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Upon receiving premarket approval from the Food and Drug Administration, NMR Centers will offer TCET services in joint ventures with wellness centers, hospitals, HMOs, and pain and drug-withdrawal clinics. NMR Centers will work toward FDA approval in stages. It will first seek approval for use in smoking cessation, then pain control, then drug withdrawal.
When it might be on the market. The timetable for technology development in smoking cessation includes another three to four months of research and perhaps 12 to 15 months of trials before receiving FDA approval.
The pain-control application–which two clinical trials have shown effective for some test patients–will take a couple of years to be approved, says Skolnick.
What’s the cost? TCET treatment costs “would not be excessive,” says Lewis Meyer, president and CEO of NMR Centers. A patient could quit smoking for the price of a year’s worth of cigarettes, says Skolnick.