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Medicare rejects depression device the media helped hype

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Wish I had a nickel for every story about vagus nerve stimulation that trumpeted it as a treatment for depression.

This week, Medicare rejected Cyberonics’ implantable nerve stimulator, saying the device, the VNS Therapy System, hasn’t been shown to be necessary. The $25,000 device is already approved for epilepsy. Cyberonics wanted to expand its use.

Bloomberg News reports “The Food and Drug Administration approved the device in 2005 to treat depression, overruling 20 agency advisers who urged rejection.???

On the Cyberonics website the company boasted of dozens of news stories from across the country over the past two years, with headlines such as:

“Implant can relieve depression: VNS Therapy is proving beneficial.”

“Omahan says she’s proof device zaps depression.”

“Emerging from the depths of depression.”

“The Pacemaker for the Brain” is Saving Lives.”

“Up from hopelessness.”

“Implanted device helps fight drug-resistant depression – Giving new hope”

Among the media reporting the potential for the device:

U.S. News & World Report
Saturday Evening Post
Reuters Health
Arizona Daily Star
San Antonio Express News
El Paso Times
Corpus Christi Caller Times
Toledo Blade
Omaha World Herald
Chicago Tribune
KSAT, San Antonio
WMUR Manchester, NH
WCCO, Minneapolis
KETV, Omaha
KUTV, Salt Lake City
KSL, Salt Lake City,
WBZ, Boston
WCBV Boston
WISN, Milwaukee
WKYC, Cleveland
KTBS, Shreveport
KOMO, Seattle

Each one of those news organizations owes it to their audience to play up the Medicare rejection of the device as prominently as they promoted the potential in the giddy glory days.

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