To the untrained, the evidence looks promising for a new medical device to ease opioid withdrawal. A small study shows that people feel better when the device, an electronic nerve stimulator called the Bridge, is placed behind their ear.
The company that markets the Bridge is using the study results to promote its use to anyone who will listen: policymakers, criminal justice officials and health care providers.
The message is working.
In the face of a nationwide crisis of opioid addiction, people are eager for new solutions. Criminal justice officials in multiple states have started Bridge pilot programs. At least one such program in Indiana received state funds. Providers with a major hospital chain in Indiana began prescribing the Bridge. And politicians in Indiana, Utah and Ohio publicly touted the device.
Innovative Health Solutions, the device maker, has marketed the Bridge for opioid withdrawal for more than a year, even before it had clearance for that use from the Food and Drug Administration. Then, last November, the Versailles, Ind.-based company got that, too. Citing the study, the FDA allowed the Bridge to be promoted for opioid withdrawal.
Indiana State Sen. Jim Merritt, a Republican who is known for sponsoring legislation addressing the opioid crisis, held an effusive press conference after the FDA gave its OK to the Bridge. "People will detox," he told reporters. "They will withdraw from drugs if it's a simpler process, and this is it."