Helius to showcase PoNS device at physical therapy meeting Feb. 15-17

Now accredited in US, device aims to improve walking ability in MS patients

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by Mary Chapman |

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Helius Medical Technologies will be showcasing its now-accredited PoNS device — designed to improve walking ability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) — at this year’s American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Combined Sections Meeting (CMS), slated for Feb. 15-17.

The annual meeting, which will feature educational sessions, exhibits, and scientific posters on developments in physical therapy, will be held this year in Massachusetts, at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center. The APTA’s membership comprises some 100,000 physical therapists, commonly called PTs, and PT assistants and students.

Helius will exhibit the PoNS device, officially named the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator, at booth 7074 of the convention center, and will host an after-hours event on Feb. 16. At both venues, the company will emphasize the role of PTs in using the device, which can be employed in combination with other physical therapy strategies to improve gait, or a person’s manner of walking, in MS. Registration for the evening event is available online or at the booth.

“Physical therapists are integral to the success of PoNS therapy. PoNS therapy requires them to use their clinical expertise to develop an appropriate treatment regimen that addresses the patient’s specific deficits with a goal of improving their gait,” Whitney Patrickson, Helius’ director of physical therapy, said in a company press release.

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PTs can learn more about PoNS device at booth, after-hours event

At the Helius booth, visitors can learn more about the noninvasive PoNS device from Patrickson and Janet Holland, Helius’ director of sales development. The pair will be available to talk about how the treatment works, how to become a registered PoNS trainer, and how to integrate the therapy into clinical practice.

“We’re eager to engage with CSM attendees to discuss the therapeutic benefit as well as the flexibility and latitude that PoNS offers in tailoring the therapy to the needs of each patient,” Patrickson said.

The event appearances will cap the first full year in which the company’s PoNS device was available to MS patients in the U.S. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021 as a short-term treatment for people with MS who have difficulty walking. Last year, it won the accreditation needed to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S.

It’s also now been authorized for use in multiple sclerosis patients in Canada and Australia.

According to Helius, 2023 was a “year of growth” for the device, in which the company’s engagement with the healthcare professionals grew “remarkably.”

PoNS device-trained PTs are now found in 10 U.S. states — including California, Florida, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Texas — where the progressive neurodegenerative disorder is most common, the company noted.

PoNS therapy gives physical therapists a powerful new tool to counter some of the life-changing effects of MS, and we look forward to speaking with physical therapists about [the device] and highlighting its therapeutic potential.

The device is placed on the tongue to deliver mild electrical stimulation to a nerve that connects to the brain. This is thought to enable brain plasticity, in which the brain essentially rewires itself in response to new experiences.

Used in conjunction with physical therapy or supervised exercise programs, the PoNS device is expected to promote the development and strengthening of neuronal circuits related to a given task. The goal is to retrain mind-body connections and boost the benefits of rehabilitation in MS patients, Helius says.

The device is approved in the U.S. for patients ages 22 and older. According to clinical trial data, MS patients who used the therapy for about three months experienced significant improvements in walking skills and balance compared with participants who used a sham device that provided no electrical stimulation.

“APTA’s CSM offers the opportunity for physical therapists to become aware of innovative treatments that can reshape the physical rehabilitation field,” Patrickson said.

“PoNS therapy gives physical therapists a powerful new tool to counter some of the life-changing effects of MS, and we look forward to speaking with physical therapists about [the device] and highlighting its therapeutic potential,” Patrickson added.