A Potentially Life Saving Treatment for Depression
By Olivia Larkin | November 29th, 2018
In April of this year, a long-term friend of the Impakt team who heads Hathaway Research International came to us to talk about a revolutionary treatment for Canadians suffering from Major Depressive Disorder. He had recently seen firsthand the transformative effects of the treatment and was shocked that treatment with so much potential to save lives is largely unknown.
The treatment is called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, commonly known as rTMS. Through research, Impakt discovered it is far more accessible in the U.S. and U.K. compared to Canada. rTMS was approved by Health Canada in 2002, yet Quebec and Saskatchewan remain the only provinces to offer this treatment covered publically. Elsewhere in the country, it is only accessible through clinical trials.
Our research led us to speak with doctors who are advocating for inclusion of rTMS in Canada’s public healthcare system. From our interviews, we found that each doctor who advocates for rTMS is working hard to prove the clinical effectiveness of this treatment. Given their extensive research, they are in the right position to speak about the potential this treatment has to radically change lives, however they know that not enough patients are accessing it. After years of hard work and advocacy, they are frustrated by the feet-dragging of provincial policy makers who delay public coverage of rTMS in Canada.
During our research process, we learned of a new study that was due to publish through LANCET in May 2018. It was one of the largest brain stimulation trials ever conducted; as such, we hit pause on our project in anticipation of its release.
The conclusions of this study were breakthrough for rTMS. They proved that three minutes of rTMS treatment is just as effective in fighting depression as thirty-seven minutes of rTMS. This new understanding can lead to a substantial reduction in time and cost of treatments and thus an increase in patients who can access rTMS. It was such an exciting time to for Impakt to be involved in this work.
Impakt had the honour of speaking with several patients who underwent rTMS treatment. Hearing their stories was difficult, yet inspiring and hopeful. They were wonderfully open with us about the realities of their depression, and how it consumed every aspect of their lives, without relief or respite. It was powerful to listen to them describe their transformation during and after rTMS treatments, which was nothing short of a miracle. Today, they are able to manage their major depressive disorder and get back to the things they care about most. A comment from one of the patients, “it really gave me back my life and my will to live”, continues to stay with me, and propels our team’s commitment to advancing rTMS accessibility.
There are various arguments as to why rTMS is not publicly covered by healthcare in all of Canada’s provinces. The main claim is that it is not cost effective for the government to cover. However, our research proves that it is actually more expensive not to treat patients with Major Depressive Disorder than to treat them with rTMS. This, plus the Canadian government’s legal obligation to provide health, safety and security to its citizens, makes treatments like rTMS a necessity.
We are working incredibly hard to distribute this paper throughout our public channels. We aim to inform patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and healthcare practitioners about this promising treatment. If you know of anyone who is interested in helping our mission, please share our paper and let them know to get in contact with the Impakt team.
You can read more about rTMS through our paper here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_IHGdPU98FVVWJOcHFoVTBBYzJ1QTVhS05hVEppWUlzRjRR/view?usp=sharing
CBC has published a story about rTMS here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/depression-mental-health-hospital-patient-ultrasound-mri-magnets-seizure-1.4916212