Prescriptions for opioid painkillers cause nearly half of the deaths in the today’s U.S. opioid overdose epidemic, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. In 2015, the latest year for which the CDC has final statistics, opioid overdoses killed more than 33,000 people. Alternative methods of blocking or reducing pain may help replace the opioid prescriptions that are a part of the problem.

SPR Therapeutics’ Sprint Peripheral Nerve Stimulation (PNS) system has two major advantages over conventional treatments for chronic significant pain. PNS’s trumpets-on-the-rooftop advantages over opiates are its lack of side effects or risk of addiction and overdose. Even patients who avoid addiction often suffer from lethargy, drowsiness, constipation, and respiratory depression when using opioids. Conventional neuromodulation, which entails surgically implanting a neurostimulator under anesthesia, remains a relatively expensive, invasive method of stimulating the nervous system to counteract pain. The Sprint PNS system is a minimally invasive device placed by a physician in an outpatient procedure. The system consists of a small stimulator with a thread-like wire lead that is inserted in the upper arm. The stimulator adheres to the arm with a patch. In typical applications, the Sprint PNS lead remains implanted for no more than 30 days, after which it is withdrawn. According to SPR Therapeutics, patients often continue to benefit from the system’s pain relief for months after the lead is withdrawn.  The company also says it has the only PNS system with FDA clearance.

The success SPR Therapeutics reports with its Sprint PNS system is noteworthy for two reasons. First and foremost, any alternative to opiates and surgery that works to control chronic severe pain sounds like a very good development indeed. Second, with all the attention on wearable health tech and the many entities large and small around in the world trying to find a profitable way to participate with this technology, the raging need for alternative pain management methods offers a worthy challenge and opportunity.