Entrepreneurs Providing Know-How To Bolster Fight Against Drug Abuse And Addiction (Neuros Medical)

If the growing opioid epidemic has taught us anything, it’s that solely traditional methods of combating the crisis will not solve the complex problem.

To address such a significant, deadly problem, innovative thinking is clearly needed, said David Goodman, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission.

“Entrepreneurs do it,” he said. “They think outside the box and take chances and find solutions to problems. That’s why we can fly airplanes.”

Entrepreneurs and businesses are bringing their backgrounds and expertise to bear in the fight against drug abuse and addiction, with ideas stretching along the spectrum of addiction, from prevention to treatment.

Some companies are developing non-pharmacological pain treatments; another is looking at tech solutions to ensure people take the correct dosing of medications; others are focused on treatment and support for those struggling with addiction.

“We need ideas all the way across the spectrum,” said Brad Pulver, president of Innovative Medical Equipment in Lyndhurst, which has developed a thermoelectric device to deliver heating and cooling therapy rather than opioids to treat chronic and post-operative pain. “We believe our idea is at sort of the front of the spectrum. So if you can get somebody off of the opioids, or rather never even give them the opioids to begin with, then there’s no way for them to become addicted to it.”

Innovative Medical Equipment was awarded $177,000 by Ohio Third Frontier last month to validate its technology. It was one of a handful of grants Ohio Third Frontier awarded in December, totaling $10 million. It was part of $20 million made available to advance new technology in the battle against drug abuse and addiction.

Pulver said that anecdotally, doctors prescribing the device, ThermaZone, have reported seeing a dramatic decrease or, in some cases, an elimination of the need for opioids to treat pain after surgery. He said the company will use the money from Ohio Third Frontier to conduct clinical trials needed in order to prove the device can reduce the need for opiates.

Neuros Medical Inc., a nerve stimulation company in Willoughby, has been able to measure the impact of its technology though studies. The most recent study showed that patients using its technology, which blocks the nerve transmission on demand with a high-frequency electrical signal, had about an 80% to 85% pain reduction rate and a 92% pill count reduction. As companies are bringing solutions to the market, it’s important that they’re not layering on cost to the health care system, said Jon Snyder, founder and chief business officer at Neuros.

“So if you look at narcotic pain medication reduction usage, that could be $5,000 to $7,000 a year that a patient is spending for that,” he said. “This is a great opportunity not only to increase a patient’s quality of life with their pain reduction, but if we’re able to reduce their narcotic pain medication usage, you could also have a great economic story there too with regards to reducing costs to the health care system.”

Solutions to address the opioid epidemic can come with entrepreneurship, said Anthony Sterns, founder and CEO of Cleveland-based iRxReminder, a company focused on medication adherence by empowering patients and health care professionals to better manage their medications together.

In the case of opioids in particular, medication adherence is critical so patients don’t take too much or have it accessed by others or have too much left over sitting around the house, Sterns said.

“I think there’s definitely good evidence in health care that the kind of disruption that’s required here can be delivered through entrepreneurship,” he said. “But it also takes partnership and a supportive environment to implement those changes.”

Current processes alone aren’t working, said Brian Bailys, founder of Cleveland-based Ascent, which was awarded $464,000 by Ohio Third Frontier. Ascent has created an app that offers 24/7/365 peer recovery coaching, in which certified “coaches” living with at least three years of sobriety offer support to those currently struggling with addiction. The grant will support the company as it launches a new app that takes the services national, after it had primarily focused on Ohio.

A recent study demonstrated that users of the app had an increased completion rate of 20% for their intensive outpatient treatment programs, Bailys said.

Ohio Third Frontier awarded money to three Northeast Ohio entities in total: Innovative Medical Equipment, Ascent and the University of Akron, which received $2 million to commercialize a degradable mesh that releases a local anesthetic as a substitute for oral opioids to manage post-operative pain.

Read the full story on Crain’s Cleveland Business.