Multiple studies in Vancouver and Toronto have found that a treatment involving magnetic pulses around the brain has been proven extremely successful in treating depression, but it is not yet covered under the Medical Services Plan.
Two recent studies have found that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can effectivel treat certain types of depression that have been resistant to medications. The treatment is non-invasive, and involves a coil-like machine being placed on top of the head, which delivers magnetic pulses to the brain. Multiple sessions are needed for the treatment to be effective.
The psychiatrists involved in the study report significant improvements to patient’s treatment-resistant depression — with nearly 30 per cent of patients going into remission where they experience little or no depressive symptoms.
“We see that the mood improves, the ability to enjoy life gets better, sleep and appetite gets better, and there is a very significant is the decrease in suicidal ideation” said Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, a psychiatrist and the principal investigator for the study at UBC.
In April, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in collaboration with UBC found that effective treatment of rTMS could be administered in just three minutes, compared to the 37 minute sessions they previously thought was needed. On Thursday, another study conducted at CAMH showed 40 per cent of people reported they no longer experienced suicidal thoughts after receiving the treatment.
But this treatment is yet to be covered by MSP, despite growing evidence that it can work.
rTMS is available out-of-pocket at a few clinics in Vancouver, including a clinic at the Mood Disorders Association of B.C. (MDABC). There, the treatment costs a total of $750. A spokesperson at the MDABC said patients can pay about $30 per session.
Making the treatment available to more people could significantly improve outcomes for a lot of patients, Vila-Rodriguez said. A 2008 study revealed that over one in five adults in B.C. experience depression, with numbers expected to increase steadily.
Vila-Rodriguez said he had submitted a proposal with the Doctors of BC for it to be included in the provincial plan, but that proposal was rejected. The treatment is covered in Quebec and Saskatchewan.
“I’m puzzled, I don’t fully understand,” he said. “I would hope this new robust evidence would provide some scientific rationale to reconsider that position.”
Contact the consultants at Theraphi Vancouver for more information.
Originally published in The Star Vancouver