The Food and Drug Administration may soon approve a “pacemaker-like device, called a vagus nerve stimulator” for severely depressed patients, reports the NY Times, that is “surgically implanted in the upper chest, and its wires are threaded into the neck, where it stimulates a nerve leading to the brain.”

But in the only rigorously controlled trial so far in depressed patients, the stimulator was no more effective than surgery in which it was implanted but not turned on.

While some patients show significantly improved moods after having the $15,000 device implanted, most do not, the study found. And once the device is implanted, it is hard to remove entirely; surgeons say the wire leads are usually left inside the neck.

What do any of you know about “Cyberonics Inc., the Houston company that makes the stimulator”? So far I’m striking out, but many of you are better sleuths than I. More below + poll:
There is an apparent window-dressing investigation by the Senate Finance Committee but, writes the NYT, “Cyberonics officials say they have been assured by the agency that this will have no bearing on its final decision.”

On May 11, consumer group Public Citizen — founded by Ralph Nader — said “Cyberonics had not proved the device was effective or safe for depressed patients. Concerns about worsening depression, suicide attempts and sudden deaths in the trials have not been fully investigated, the group added.” (See Public Citizen’s May 11 letter to the FDA.)

Then there’s this tidbit:

Nowhere Man

“Erehwon59” sounds like the alias of some Pringles-stuffing, pasty-faced Dungeons & Dragons addict, but one Houston company is spending big bucks to find out just who he is.

Erehwon — and yeah, we realize it’s “nowhere” backwards — has been saying bad things online about Cyberonics, a medical-device company, and its CEO. And they’re not happy about it.

They’ve sued “John Doe No. 1 a/k/a Erehwon59” in state district court here and are pressing to find out the mysterious fiend’s identity.

It’s not because he’s made disparaging remarks on Yahoo bulletin boards about Cyberonics management, says company attorney Lawrence Schreve. “This guy is posting confidential information on the Internet,” Schreve says, although he won’t point out just what the alleged confidential information was.

The company subpoenaed Yahoo for Erehwon’s identity; Yahoo didn’t disclose it but passed on word to him (or her!!) that a lawsuit had been filed. (

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