JLife speaks to Dr Nithya Anandan and Dr Rashad Nazir, founders of Expert TMS, to discover how a little-known non-invasive, medication-free therapy to is set to revolutionise mental health treatment.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) has been treating a wide range of conditions for over 20 years, yet its groundbreaking potential to treat mental health disorders has only come to light over the past decade. With an increasing number of significant studies showing promising results, not only in treating mood disorders, but chronic pain and addiction, it is fast becoming one of the most talked about breakthrough treatments in medical circles.
The treatment involves targeting short magnetic pulses over the scalp to stimulate specific brain regions that regulate conditions including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), addictions, insomnia and chronic pain.
Since receiving FDA approval in 1997, TMS has been widely used in America and Europe, yet in the UK, it remains relatively unknown and unfunded, a result which Dr Rashad Nazir puts down to an overstretched NHS:
“As is often the case, the UK is late to the feast. Our health service is stressed at present, so getting clinical commissioning groups to fund this will take time. There’s a £2 million study going on right now in the NHS across the UK. In two years’ time, everybody will have heard of TMS.”
Both Dr Nithya Anandan and Dr Rashad Nazir have been working as consultant psychiatrists for many years, but were blown away by the recent findings: “Like many still in the medical profession, I didn’t know enough about it.” said Nithya. “I needed to be convinced by credible research and evidence to prove to me it was as efficacious as I’d heard. After it had been approved by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), I attended an international conference and saw for myself how TMS helps even the most resistant mental health conditions such as OCD, cocaine addiction and anorexia.
“We pored over the many studies published over the last 20 years, and there was no doubt in my mind: this is one of the real alternatives to medication that actually works. I tried the machine myself, (it’s not at all painful) and decided we must bring this to the North West. We poured all of own savings into Expert TMS because we believe that much in the treatment.”
“We’re practically bankrupt!” Rashad jokes. “But we believe it’s worth it to bring this vital service to the North West. Patients need to receive this treatment on a daily basis, so we needed to set up a commutable base for the people of Liverpool and Manchester.”
Expert TMS is fully-registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and is currently one of only eight services in the UK providing this treatment. Both Nithya and Rashad have received training from one of the leading TMS authorities, Professor Alexander O’Neill Kerr from the University of Northampton, and are members of the clinical TMS society, ensuring they’re at the forefront of new research.
“We’ve successfully treated many patients already with mood disorders and addiction problems. It’s incredible to witness the change in people,” said Nithya. “Many respond in as little as two weeks. They tell us they’ve stopped craving drugs or alcohol and their mood has improved. Often the first thing they notice is they’re sleeping better.”
“The treatment period lasts for a maximum of four to six weeks. Some continue to take medication, others don’t need to, and the lapse rate following the treatment is as low as 13%. If they do have a blip, they’ll come in for a short burst of TMS to get them back on their feet again.”
The whole process takes as little as 30 minutes, and with no anaesthetics or sedatives required, patients can receive the treatment and drive away immediately, with no downtime or side effects. The pair work flexibly around patients’ needs, holding sessions outside usual hours, including evenings and weekends.
“The main side effects of antidepressants are weight gain, sedation and sexual dysfunction and users are often obliged to inform the DVLA, which also increases their insurances premiums.” said Rashad. “A large number of our patients come from professional backgrounds; they find it fits with their busy lifestyle and lets them carry on life as normal without the debilitating side effects of medication.”
NIthya believes the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry within our health service means medication is often seen as the only answer: “We believe antidepressants are over-prescribed, as it’s an easier option for many time-strapped GPs. TMS is a safe, non-invasive procedure with proven efficacy. 58% of those resistant to these traditional forms of treatment get positive results from TMS – so for those failing to respond, or suffering side effects, it’s a great reason to try it.”
Far from a last resort, the pair believe that it should be considered a first-line treatment: “Patients with depression or anxiety who’ve used TMS as a first-line treatment see a far higher success rate,” said Rashad. “It makes sense to begin with a non-invasive option, which has a quick response. Apart from epileptics, anyone can have this treatment, from pregnant women to those with pacemakers. It’s so safe that it’s been trialled on children as young as 8 to treat bedwetting.”
Although Expert TMS accepts GP referrals, you can simply self-refer, meaning you can contact the clinic directly, and do not need to go through the hassle of seeing your doctor to begin treatment. Simply pick up the phone for a free consultation and the team will let you know if TMS therapy is right for you. You will then be invited for a detailed assessment with a consultant psychiatrist. Its prices are the lowest in an emerging market and generous discounts are available for front-line staff including NHS, police and armed forces, with some private healthcare insurance companies, including AXA, PPP and WPA, currently covering treatment costs.
@expertTMS offers you a personalised service for treatment of depression with our own team of dedicated clinicians and staff in a caring, peaceful and private clinic setting based in Warrington.
— Magstim TMS Therapy (@magstimTMS) August 15, 2019
“Just today I’ve been talking to the North West veteran’s society about PTSD treatment, so hopefully we can help them,” said Rashad. “And we’re currently in discussions with Everton Football Club about treating athletes who aren’t allowed to be on medication due to drug testing restrictions.”
Expert TMS also runs a free drop-in support group for patients, family members, and those simply curious to see how it works. Simply call ahead and you can have a look at the machines, see how it works, and talk to the people who are already benefitting from this pioneering treatment.
“We need to get the word out and show people this research,” said Nithya. “On our site, we’ve attached studies for each respective condition, so those who may still be sceptical can see the evidence for themselves. This will be the future for mental health treatment.”
To find out more, visit Experttms.co.uk.