Aetna Will Not Cover Implantable Depression Device
Officials for Aetna on Friday announced that the health insurer will not cover the Vagus Nerve Stimulator as a treatment for severe depression, the New York Times reports (Feder, New York Times, 4/22).
FDA approved the surgically implantable nerve stimulator for the treatment of severe depression last year (California Healthline, 2/17). FDA in 1997 approved VNS as a treatment for epilepsy, and Aetna and most other health insurers cover the device for that use.
According to Aetna, a review of available data indicated that VNS, which costs about $15,000, remains "experimental" as a treatment for severe depression, although local medical directors might find certain cases in which coverage of the device for that use is appropriate.
As of Monday, 163 of the 800 U.S. health plans covered VNS as a treatment for severe depression, according to Cyberonics, which manufactures the device.
However, most of the approvals of coverage of VNS as a treatment for severe depression were made on case-by-case basis at the request of psychiatrists on behalf of patients, rather than as general coverage recommendations (New York Times, 4/22).