An electronic handheld device that can be used to prevent and treat cluster headaches in some patients has been recommended in draft guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The device, which is branded ’gammaCore’ (ElectroCore) works by delivering a small electric current and aims to modify pain signals by stimulating the vagus nerve through the skin of the neck. It can be used to stop pain when the person feels a cluster headache beginning or daily to help prevent cluster headaches.
According to NICE, which published the guidance for public consultation on 5 July 2019, the device is small and portable, and the user only requires brief training.
It is expected that, using gammaCore in addition to standard care (sumatriptan, zolmitriptan and oxygen), could save the NHS £450 per patient in the first year compared to standard care alone.
Meindert Boysen, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, said “Cluster headaches are excruciatingly painful and debilitating, and can have a huge effect on a person’s life including affecting their ability to work or do normal activities”.
“Many people with the condition don’t get enough pain relief with current treatment options, which are often used off-label and limited by side effects and contraindications.
“The committee heard that, on average, five people per year in the UK end their lives because they are no longer able to live with the pain of cluster headaches.”