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Your Guide to Getting a Spring TMS

getting-a-spring-tmsA non-drug treatment with few reported side effects that works as both an acute treatment for migraine attacks and a migraine preventive. That describes the Spring TMS, which received FDA approval in 2014 and is slowly becoming available throughout the country. Compared to other technologies, Spring TMS’s rollout has lacked much fanfare, but it’s a pretty exciting treatment with a long history of research to support its use.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (that’s what TMS stands for) uses a very short magnetic field to send a brief energy pulse through the skull into brain tissue. The pulse causes very mild electrical currents in the brain that are believed to stop a migraine attack by interrupting the abnormal electrical activity in the brain caused by migraine.

My experience with Spring TMS might make you wary. I believe the worsening of my migraine attacks while using it was coincidental, not caused by the device itself. I still advocate for trying it because the research on Spring TMS is quite strong. I also advocate for talking to your doctor about what to do if your head pain worsens while using the device.

Here’s what you need to know for getting a Spring TMS, from which doctors can prescribe it and learning how to use it to its cost and how the rental program works. It contains an exact transcript of the questions an eNeura executive answered for me in April.

Kerrie: Can any doctor prescribe Spring TMS? If not, how can a patient choose a doctor to prescribe it?

eNeura: The device is currently available by prescription in specialist headache centers around the US. If you want to see which doctors near you can prescribe the Spring TMS email customercare@eNeura.com or call 1(408) 245-6400, and press 1 to speak with a Customer Care representative. Doctors who are interested in prescribing the device can also email or call eNeura customer care.

How much does it cost?

Spring TMS is available by prescription under a rental program. The cost is comparable to other prescribed migraine treatments. The company offers a $300 discount off the first 3 months for new patients. A new 3 month prescription is $450 ($150 per month) plus a one time $50 shipping charge. Total charges for the first three-month period come to $500.

[The above pricing only applies for the first three months of use. Here’s updated pricing information from eNeura’s customer service department, current as of Aug. 24, 2016: We rent the device in 3-month increments.  At list price, the cost per month is $250. A patient who selects the 12-month option will average $175 per month for SpringTMS. We also offer new patients a $300 discount on their first prescription, which would bring the cost per month down from $250 to $150 for that first prescription.]

Does insurance cover SpringTMS? 

As a new migraine treatment, insurance coverage for Spring TMS varies and will likely require documentation of medical necessity from the prescribing physician. eNeura has retained an insurance reimbursement consulting service for patients wishing to pursue insurance coverage. eNeura Customer care will help you get started. Call 1(408) 245-6400, and press 1 to speak with a Customer Care representative.

Do you bill insurance? If not, have patients been successful applying for reimbursement from insurance companies?

eNeura does not bill insurance companies, but patient’s can submit invoices to their insurance company for potential reimbursement.

How does the rental program work?/How does a patient renew a prescription?

eNeura: Near the end of the three-month period, the patient’s doctor can send a renewal prescription to eNeura. eNeura, in turn, emails an invoice for the renewal period. Once that’s paid they will mail a new SIM card to replace the original SIM card in the machine. If the prescription is not renewed and the new data card is not inserted in the Spring TMS unit, it stops working. 

Is special training required to learn how to use the device?

It is easy to use and is fully automated to guide the patient through treatment in a step-by-step fashion. While there is no special training required, eNeura offers an individualized program to support you as you begin using the Spring TMS.

A Clinical Education Consultant will contact you when your Spring TMS arrives to help you get started and answer your questions. During your first 3-4 months of use, your nurse will continue to support you in your treatment plan, answer your questions, review your diary and report your progress to your doctor. 

Is the unit shipped directly to the patient or does it go through the doctor?

Prescribing doctors send the three-month prescription to eNeura. Once the prescription is received, eNeura prepares the device and ships it directly to the patient’s home.

If a patient stops using the device, how do they return it?

When a patient receives their SpringTMS in the mail they are instructed to keep the original packaging. If a patient stops using the device, it needs to be shipped back to eNeura. Contact eNeura Customer Care to obtain a prepaid return shipping label. There is no charge for returning the device.

What else would you like patients to know about SpringTMS?

Many migraine patients are looking for non-drug treatment options. For them medications either don’t work… may be contraindicated or just not well tolerated. SpringTMS offers a safe clinically proven treatment option without medication side effects.

Longtime reader Timothy Bauer checked in with eNeura on July 20 after reading my article on Migraine.com. He was told that doctors who have not already been trained in prescribing the device may have to wait several months for training. The company gave him the names of doctors in his area who have already been trained.

 

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Ketogenic Diet Update: Six Months of Ketosis

Six months into a ketogenic diet is a sort of milestone among dietitians. It’s when the body really adjusts to the change—cholesterol settles down and other blood levels that have been out of whack do, too. Here’s where I am after six solid months of ketosis.

Hypoglycemia

My blood sugar has finally stabilized and the hypoglycemia appears to be under control! I think it’s from a combination of time for my body to adjust to the diet and eating so many calories in a day that I can get in enough carbohydrates. I’m eating 13.8 g of carbs each day; at the lowest, I was getting 3 g. It has stabilized enough that I can eat only two meals a day and can exercise without a blood sugar crash.

Migraine

I am less reactive to foods than I was before I started the diet, but everything I eat is still a migraine trigger. Certain foods are less bad than others and I’m slowly adding in more foods. Now that I’m back to two meals a day, I can take abortives after both meals and remain functional most of the time. (Someone will read this and inevitably be concerned about medication overuse headache/rebound headache. My doctor and I are on top of it.) Sometimes I barely feel the migraine attack at all. The last couple days, I’ve basically been back to where I was before the DHE infusions last summer—I still have a migraine attack every time I eat anything, but they mostly respond to medication (though I have fewer foods than I did then).

Weight

The weight loss seems to have stabilized, too. I’m remain at about 18 pounds below my ideal weight even though I try to eat 2,100 calories a day. I don’t know if I just need more calories on a ketogenic diet than I normally do or if I haven’t been hitting my calorie target. My guess is a bit of both. It’s easier to get in all my calories now that I’m on two meals a day, so we’ll see if I gain any weight.

Ketogenic Diet Ratio

When I noticed that I was no longer having hypoglycemic episodes, I increased my ratio from 3.75:1 to 4:1. It was too much—I went considerably deeper into ketosis, my migraine attacks became more frequent, and I lost weight. I also tried to decrease the ratio to 3.25:1 and a significant migraine attack ensued; it was too little. My sweet spot appears to be 3.75:1.

(I’ve learned that a 4:1 ratio is normally verboten for adults who aren’t in imminent danger of death because it’s impossible to meet protein needs within our calorie constraints. Since I have an extra 400 or 500 calories to play with, this doesn’t apply for me right now.)

Vitamin & Nutrient Deficiencies

So far, the diet has caused me to be deficient in iodine, potassium, sodium, chloride, and various B vitamins. I’ve been able to supplement (and use more salt) for everything except the B vitamins. A bad history with multiple different B vitamin supplement has me reluctant to try one. I think today is the day I’ll be brave.

Unexpectedly, my vitamin A is too high. It happens that the least migraine-triggering vegetables for me all happen to be high in vitamin A. Plus, vitamin A is fat-soluble and I always eat it in conjunction with a ton of fat.

Erratic Blood Work

My labs have been all over the place in the last six months. A level will be way high one month and back to normal the next without any change on my part. Almost every level that had been out of whack is back to normal or close to normal as of July 13. I won’t have my cholesterol checked for another couple weeks, but I’m actually hoping it will remain on the high end. One of the preventives on my list to try is a statin, which lowers cholesterol.

My Current Thoughts on the Diet

In summary,

  • I’m not hypoglycemic
  • I no longer have to eat more frequently than my meds can keep up with
  • I’ve stopped losing weight
  • My vitamin deficiencies are minor and so far manageable
  • My labs are pretty good

Obviously the ketogenic diet hasn’t been a slam dunk for me, but it is helping. After spending May and June thinking I would have to abandon it any day, it no longer seems untenable. It’s not ideal and can’t be my final strategy, but it’s getting me through. Now my goal is to maintain the diet long enough to support an aggressive trial of five or six different preventives (not simultaneously). Realistically, that’s probably at least until the end of the year.

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Getting into a CGRP Drug Study for Migraine

Getting into a CGRP drug study for migraineThe logistics of finding a CGRP drug study are relatively simple—the hard parts are meeting the study criteria and living close enough (or being able to travel) to a location that needs trial participants.

Finding Clinical Trials

ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry of medical studies around the world. You can search for studies on any condition you’re curious about and can narrow the list by location. It’s the most detailed search, but can be overwhelming.

CenterWatch is another database of clinical trials. You can search studies and research centers by condition and/or geographic location. It has less information than ClinicalTrial.gov, but the format is easier to follow. CenterWatch offers a free email notification service of new trials.

The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation will search trials for you. Call 1-877-MED HERO or complete the online search request form to receive search results by email in about a week. (The trial search function on the website searches CenterWatch’s database.)

Current CGRP Drug Studies for Migraine

My search for migraine CGRP on ClinicalTrials.gov turned up 29 studies, many of which have already been completed. The ones that are currently recruiting are:

Don’t take this list as the only options—doing your own search with your own terms might turn up something I missed. You can save time by limiting results to the state you live in. New studies are added all the time, so be sure to check back for ones that you might qualify for. Or sign up for CenterWatch’s email alerts.

Study Eligibility

To really know how a drug or treatment works, researchers need to compare similar patients to each other. To do this, they must limit participants by certain eligibility criteria, which vary from one study to the next. Read through a study’s eligibility requirements closely—you may meet all the criteria except one (that’s usually the case for me). Frequency of migraine attack is a major criterion; how many preventives you have tried, drug allergies, recency of Botox injections, or having an uncommon subtype of migraine are some examples of other criteria.

Study Contacts

Depending on the study and where you’re searching, the contact may be a specific doctor or hospital, company that runs clinical trials, or a general contact phone number or email address. If you see the name of the center, but no phone number, Google the name and go from there. I’ve never had a central contact respond to email or phone calls, so I recommend trying every other possible avenue as well.

Talk to your doctor, too. They may know about trials in the area or have information on upcoming studies. This is most likely if you see a headache specialist at an academic headache center, but it’s worth a try even if you don’t.

What You Need to Know About Clinical Trials

Having the option of clinical trials is great for patients who need relief and want to try a new treatment, but they are still experiments. You may get a placebo. You may get the active drug, but at a lower dose than is effective. You may experience side effects that are not yet known. These risks are worth it to some people and not acceptable to others. If you are chosen for a study, ask every question you have and don’t agree to participate unless you are satisfied with the answers. Try to view the risks as objectively as possible to make the most informed decision you can. People can die during drug trials—that’s exceedingly rare and the CGRP drugs have had mild side effects in studies so far—but it’s important to try to keep your eyes wide open. It’s so easy to be blinded by a desire for relief (I speak from experience).

Learn More About Clinical Trials

If you’ve participated in in drug studies and would like to share your experience, please leave a comment or email me at kerrie[at]thedailyheadache[dot]com.

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Spring TMS: A Patient’s Experience

Spring TMS device imageOf all the new treatment roller coasters I’ve been on, the Spring TMS brought the most emotional ups and downs. I anticipated its release for 10 years, which means I’d stored up a decade of expectation. Nothing but a complete cessation of my migraine attacks could have lived up to that much hype. Here’s how the trial went for me:

Week 1

I still had constant head pain, but little fatigue and not much cognitive dysfunction. The reduction in fatigue and cognitive dysfunction brought enormous improvement to my quality of life. The pain was a 5 or 6, which is worse than my baseline pain level. It felt more like a headache than a migraine attack, though the pain was far more migraine-like than usual. It was centered around my left eye and temple (instead of an all-over throbbing pain). A couple ibuprofen took the edge off when the pain began to interfere with my ability to function.

Week 2

The migraine pain from the previous week was lower, but still present. I was fully functional with little fatigue or cognitive dysfunction, so I had no complaints. I celebrated by emptying the shed and reorganizing the entire house.

Week 3

I was still doing better than before I started using the Spring TMS, but my fatigue increased as the week wore on. Then I started getting slow-build migraine attacks (that’s my term, nothing technical, but I’m pretty sure the meaning is obvious). They seemed totally random, with no identifiable triggers. Then food that’s normally OK started being a trigger. Then the act of eating itself became a trigger (even with DAO). All the while, the fatigue kept increasing.

In this week, I noticed that I’d use the device and the migraine attack would let up, but return a few hours later. The length of this reprieve reduced steadily until I’d feel worse immediately upon using the Spring TMS. It’s like the device caused an instant rebound headache.

After spending two days laid up with moderate pain and major fatigue and cognitive dysfunction, I decided to stop the treatment.

Week 4

After I stopped using the Spring TMS, the fatigue slowly decreased as the week progressed, though some cognitive dysfunction remained. I wasn’t worried. It took a week to get over the initial side effects, so I figured it would take a week to return to baseline. I still thought I’d be able to use the device again when things settled down.

When a migraine attack struck an hour before an appointment and wasn’t responding to triptans. I gave the Spring TMS a try. I felt worse instantly and spend the rest of the day in bed.

Week 5

I was still spending more time laid up than before I started using the Spring TMS. I tried to keep the worry at bay, but the thoughts keep creeping up: “What if this is my new normal? What if I never go back to how well I was doing before I started the treatment?”

I kept reminding myself of an escapade with dizziness last February. My doctor said that a four-day migraine attack temporarily changed my brain, which made me more sensitive to the side effects of bupropion (Wellbutrin, a drug that has always made me dizzy unless I’m very careful with it). My brain didn’t normalize after that for two weeks. I used the Spring TMS for three weeks and my brain clearly reacted to it. I told myself that maybe it would take three weeks for my brain to settle down. Or three months. Either way, I told myself that there was no reason to think I’d feel this way forever.

Beyond

It has been many months since I stopped using the Spring TMS. Eating and drinking anything but water continues to be a migraine trigger. My overall pain levels returned to baseline, but I spend more time at higher levels of pain than before I tried the device. My fatigue and cognitive dysfunction did not improve beyond the fifth week (though the ketogenic diet has improved my cognitive dysfunction.)

I suspect it’s a coincidence that I became more reactive to food (and eating) while using the device, though determining cause and effect is impossible. My doctor said he’s had patients become worse while using the device, but I’m the only one who has had a permanent change. A friend also tried it and got worse, but she returned to baseline within a week of stopping it.

Parting Wisdom

Perhaps surprisingly, I would still encourage people to try the Spring TMS. Just be aware that your migraine attacks could worsen. Before you try it, talk with your doctor about that possibility and find out what they recommend—tough it out and hope the attacks will improve or stop altogether? Based on my discussion with my doctor, I would do the latter, but only you and your doctor can determine the right approach for you.

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Effective Migraine Treatments for Me

migraine-treatmentsKeeping up with the ketogenic diet and coordinating a new treatment (more on that soon) are taking all my energy right now. But I wanted to share my response to an email from someone who asked what my migraine attacks were like before I started DAO and what other migraine treatments I have tried. The list is too long to compile; instead, I summarized the migraine treatments that have helped me since finding the first somewhat effective one in January 2010. It’s an interesting snapshot.

I’ve had a gradual lessening of the pain since adding various treatments over the last six years. Before that, the pain rarely dropped below a 7 and regularly reached an 8-9. I also had a handful of attacks with level 10 pain, though I am very reluctant to rate my pain as a 10.

January 2010: Began using the NuvaRing continuously. Didn’t affect my baseline pain levels, but stopped the level 10 pain that came with menstrually associated migraine attacks.

November 2010: Moved to Arizona from Boston (weather was a major trigger for me). Made the migraine attacks a little more manageable, but I can’t quantify the improvement. The biggest part is that it freed up some of my energy to began researching and trying different treatments.

January 2012: Began taking about 700 mg of magnesium a day. After that, the pain ranged from 4-7 and occasionally got higher than 7 (maybe several times a month). I ultimately pushed the dose to about 1,000 mg a day.

August 2012: Began taking 12 mg of cyproheptadine. Pain ranged from 4-6 and hit a 7 an average of three times a month.

January 2014: Began DAO (diamine oxidase) in conjunction with a heavily restricted diet. My pain typically ranged from 2-4, but hit a 5 at times. This is when triptans (Amerge) were first effective for me, so I was finally able to abort migraine attacks before they got bad.

March 2015: I once again began getting migraine attacks every time I ate. The pain is usually 2-4. It sometimes hits a 5, but doesn’t get above that. Amerge is not longer a reliable acute medication. Fatigue and cognitive dysfunction are now far more disabling for me than the pain.

January 2016: Began a ketogenic diet. In the last month, I’ve been able to eat 250 calories without always triggering an attack. I typically still have at least one attack a day. (In addition to eating still triggering some attacks, I am much more sensitive to other environmental triggers and can’t go out in public without having an attack.) Amerge helps inconsistently. My pain ranges from 2-4. I can’t remember the last time it was a 5. The cognitive dysfunction is a lot better, but the fatigue is still disabling.

(I followed up with another email clarifying that I have particularly intractable chronic migraine and that this man’s wife will likely find an effective migraine treatment far more quickly than I did.)