Health and Science banner

FDA approves TMS for depression

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an alternative treatment for depression that was tested here in Philadelphia.


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Get the mp3 »



The University of Pennsylvania is one of a handful of locations nationally where Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is available as a treatment, outside of clinical trials.

Dr. John O’Reardon says the non-invasive therapy sends magnetic pulses through the scalp to stimulate nerve centers in the brain that aren’t working properly.

O’Reardon: You have a circuit that’s off line, almost on strike in the depressed patient in that’s not doing its job to maintain normal mood.

O’Reardon is an associate professor of psychiatry at Penn. He says the FDA’s sanction is the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the science community.

But he says the governments approval is just the first step toward making TMS widely available. Health insurance companies have to agree to pay for the alternative treatment before it becomes a real option for people with depression.

O’Reardon: I very, very much hope that the insurance companies will step up to the plate and increasingly provide this treatment for patients because it seems that it is safe and effective.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is reserved for people who suffer major depression. This week’s, FDA approval restricts the official use of TMS to patients who have already tried, and failed, drug therapy.

Paying for TMS out-of-pocket can cost about $200 per session. An initial course of treatment requires a series of sessions.

spacer image