The International Society for ECT and Neurostimulation (formerly the Association for Convulsive Therapy) is a group for psychiatrists who are interested in ECT. It was set up in 1976 and earlier this month held its 24th annual meeting. On the agenda was a workshop on focal electrically administered seizure therapy (FEAST), given by Ziad Nahas.
FEAST is a technique invented by American psychologist Harold Sackeim. It uses unilateral electrode placement with unidirectional current instead of bidirectional and electrodes of different sizes instead of electrodes of the same size. The aim is to get the same results as unilateral ECT on symptoms but with less severe memory loss and cognitive problems. Harold Sackeim has applied for a patent on the technique. (According to a May 2013 press release from the publishers Elsevier the patent was pending.)
In Europe and many other countries you cannot patent medical procedures (as opposed to medical devices and drugs). The World Medical Association explains why in their 2009 position statement.
“The World Medical Association:
states that physicians have an ethical responsibility to make relevant scientific information available to colleagues and the public, when possible.
states that the patenting of medical procedures poses serious risks to the effective practice of medicine by potentially limiting the availability of new procedures to patients.
considers that the patenting of medical procedures is unethical and contrary to the values of the medical profession that should guide physicians’ service to their patients and relations with their colleagues.
encourages national medical associations to make every effort to protect physicians’ incentives to advance medical knowledge and develop new medical procedures.”
The three-day meeting included a continuing medical education course on ECT (given by eight men and a woman).
Another patent that has been in the news recently is Professor Steen Lissing’s depression helmet. Steen Dissing is a professor at Copenhagen University in Denmark and can patent his invention because it is a device rather than a technique.
The device delivers “a dose of Transcranial Pulsating Electro Magnetic Fields (T-PEMF) to brain tissues”. According to Professor Dissing “the device mimics electrical fields in the brain, and triggers the body’s own healing mechanism”.
The helmet is at least less invasive than deep brain stimulation, which suffered a setback recently when a trial of its use in the treatment of depression was stopped by the Food and Drug Administration after failing a futility analysis (that is, when interim results showed that the treatment was ineffective). I think the author of this article about the trial in the Neurotech business report newsletter said rather more than they meant when they referred to the Cb25 area of the brain as “a lucrative target for depression”. Cb25, or Brodmann area 25, was the target area of the brain in the failed trial.
The patent for the stimulation of area Cb25 is held by neurologist Helen Mayberg and neurosurgeon Andres Lozano, and licensed to St Jude Medical who carried out the halted trial. I expect they will be looking for another “lucrative target”.