In May of 2007, Houston-based Cyberonics attempted to reach out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in order to receive approval for the use of their Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) therapy system for the treatment of those that receive Medicare and suffer from treatment-resistant depression (TRD). The preliminary determination at that time was to deny Medicare patients with TRD any coverage for VNS therapy.
Since that time, thousands of patients have reported success with using the VNS system for relieving their depression. Cyberonics has been vigilant in pursuing the Medicaid system to allow beneficiaries to be reimbursed for the TRD therapy.
An answer had previously been promised by the end of March 2013 from CMS as to whether they would approve or deny the VNS therapy treatment.
On Thursday April 4th – as a follow-up to the proceedings – a press release was issued to inform those that were still seeking repayment for their VNS treatment or the hope that it would be approved by CMS so that they could pursue the VNS option for their depression. The press release said that debate regarding the decision of Medicaid on whether to permit or deny VNS was still ongoing.
Since the issue is still open, there is no news other than that the dialog continues. There is currently no timeline for when this issue will be resolved.
VNS is a drug free system wherein a small implant is placed into the body which stimulates the Vagus nerve. The Vagus is the tenth cranial nerve that, for indeterminate reasons, has enormous control over mood and seizures.
It can safely be used in conjunction with depression medication, and indeed this course is typically recommended.
Dr. A. John Rush, the vice chairman for research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwesthern Medical Center at Dallas has noted that in the VNS pilot study, 40% of patients that were treated for TRD using this system improved by more than 50% according to Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.
Further tests have supported these findings but the debate remains open as to whether it is a viable aid for treatment-resistant depression.