Ohio government, companies and organizations seek non-opioid pain management options

Medical device provides drug-free pain treatment

By Jordyn Grzelewski



A medical company hopes a clinical study on one of its devices will help efforts to reduce drug prescriptions that have played a role in fueling the state’s opioid epidemic.

Cleveland-based Innovative Medical Equipment was among the seven 2017 recipients of funding from an Ohio Third Frontier Commission initiative seeking new technological solutions to address the opioid crisis.

The company was awarded $177,500 to help fund a clinical trial at University Hospitals of the company’s ThermaZone device, a heating and cooling thermal therapy instrument that has primarily been marketed to patients who are recovering from orthopedic surgery.

The company offers a full line of orthopedic pads to fit the ankles, knees, hips, back, elbows and other areas.

Users fill the small device with 2 ounces of distilled water, which the ThermaZone can cool to 38 degrees or heat to 125 degrees, company President Brad Pulver explained.

Pulver said the company began to hear feedback that the device was helping doctors prescribe fewer opioid medications post-surgery. Innovative Medical Equipment is hoping the clinical trial will help prove the device’s effectiveness at relieving pain.

The trial, which began recently, will last for several months and include 180 patients who have undergone ACL or rotator cuff surgery. One group will use ice to manage their pain; another will use a competitor’s device; and a third will use ThermaZone.

The trial will track each group’s daily intake of pain medication.

Innovative Medical Equipment hopes that if the trial shows favorable results, insurance companies will be more willing to pay for patients to use ThermaZone.

“We’re trying to be prepared by having the data in hand,” Pulver said.

“Our sincere hope is that when we finish this trial and have positive results, the insurance companies will recognize that approximately $500 to $600 is a lot cheaper than paying for drugs and paying for treatment for someone who” becomes addicted.

Experts say these types of alternatives to opioids are crucial in fighting the opioid epidemic, which new data indicates killed more than 4,800 Ohioans last year. Prescription opioids played a significant role in creating today’s addiction crisis, the fatalities from which are now being driven by powerful synthetic opioids.

“Historically, for up to three decades, the opioid crisis was being driven by prescription medications being provided for pain, including post-surgical pain, strains and work injuries,” said Dr. Patrick Ensminger, a Trumbull County-based chiropractor who is chairman of the Ohio State Chiropractic Association (OSCA) Opioid Task Force.

“Now that we are aware based on the frightful consequences of what has occurred, it becomes increasingly important that we come up with good alternatives to both opioid medications and medication prescribing in general.”

Ensminger is a proponent of drug-free pain treatment, including chiropractic care, acupuncture, massotherapy and other drug alternatives that he says are “extremely effective at combating pain.”

OSCA worked with the governor’s office to name September Drug-Free Pain Management Month.

Even though state and federal guidelines have begun to emphasize drug-free pain treatment, “the majority of insurance providers have been slow to comply or resistant to comply with these new recommendations,” Ensminger said.

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