PoNS device made available to US veterans through new collaboration

Device designed to improve walking ability in people with mild-to-moderate MS

Patricia Inacio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inacio, PhD |

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Helius Medical Technologies is collaborating with Lovell Government Services to make its PoNS device — designed to improve walking ability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) — available to U.S. veterans and MS patients in other federal healthcare systems.

The PoNS device, officially named the Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator, is approved in the U.S. to be used short term in conjunction with physical therapy or supervised exercise programs. It’s indicated to help improve walking abilities among people with mild-to-moderate MS, 22 and older.

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PoNS device will be available to MS patients in federal healthcare programs

With the new agreement, the device will become available to MS patients in federal healthcare systems, including the more than 28,000 patients reported to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) every year, “making PoNS a potential game changer for veterans and their families,” Dane Andreeff, president and CEO of Helius, said in a company press release.

“Through their Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence, the VA is dedicated to maximizing the quality of life for veterans suffering from MS, and we are thrilled to partner with Lovell to expand the reach of our innovative PoNS device,” Andreeff added.

Lovell is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business whose primary mission is to provide medical and pharmaceutical resources to the VA’s medical organizations. It helps medical and pharmaceutical companies who wish to take their products to government markets.

“As the largest integrated healthcare system in the U.S., the VA provides services to veterans with MS from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their lives,” said Chris Lovell, founder and CEO of Lovell, and a retired major from the U.S. Marine Corps. “Veterans have given their best to our country and should have access to the most innovative and effective resources available. Lovell is proud to introduce this important product to the VA and other federal healthcare providers.”

Gait difficulties had taken away his most valued treasure, quality adventures with his 13-year-old daughter … after treatment with PoNS, he was able to take his daughter to New York City, where they enjoyed walking the streets and seeing Broadway shows, experiences he thought were lost forever.

MS is caused by excess inflammation in the brain and spinal cord, which leads to progressive damage to nerve cells. This results in a variety of symptoms, including trouble walking in more advanced stages of the disease.

PoNS is designed to boost the benefits of physical therapy or supervised exercise programs intended to improve walking ability in people with MS. It does that by promoting the brain’s ability to rewire itself as new information is learned, a feature known as brain plasticity.

It consists of a mouthpiece containing more than 100 electrodes, which is connected via a cord to a controller worn around the neck.

During exercise sessions, the device is placed on the patient’s tongue, where the electrodes deliver mild electrical impulses. Because the tongue is connected to the brain through two major cranial nerves, the electrical signals can be transmitted from the tongue to the brain to promote neuroplasticity.

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MS patients experience improvements in walking ability, function with PoNS

In clinical trials, MS patients using the device for about three months experienced significant improvements in walking skills and balance compared with patients who were treated with a sham device that provided no electrical stimulation.

Real-world data similarly demonstrated substantial gait improvements in patients who used PoNS for 14 weeks.

“In a study of real-world results, after 14 weeks of PoNS Therapy, 100% of MS patients experienced a clinically meaningful improvement in gait,” Andreeff said.

Andreeff shared the story of Kevin Byrne, a retired U.S. veteran with MS who experienced meaningful benefits with PoNS.

“Gait difficulties had taken away his most valued treasure, quality adventures with his 13-year-old daughter,” Andreeff said. However, “after treatment with PoNS, he was able to take his daughter to New York City, where they enjoyed walking the streets and seeing Broadway shows, experiences he thought were lost forever.”