GammaCore for COVID


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— This winter, COVID-19 cases spiked drastically, going from 10 million cases at the beginning of November to nearly 15 million less than a month later. Hospitalization rates are also at an all-time high. Now, a device mainly used to treat migraines has FDA emergency use authorization to help COVID patients breathe.

“Antivirals, high-dose steroids, oxygen, inhalers, antibiotics, you name it,” recalled Marshall Bedder, MD.

Bedder was prescribed it all when he was hospitalized with COVID-19. He had difficulty breathing and his oxygen levels were low.

“When I was admitted, quite hypoxemic, in the seventies, I was worried,” Dr. Bedder shared.

Then this happened. Marshall’s oxygen levels went from 91 to 95 in a few minutes and he could breathe easier. The reason was because of this device.

“GammaCore Sapphire CV was recently authorized by the FDA for use in patients with COVID,” described Peter Staats, MD, MBA, FIPP, chief medical officer at ElectroCore and chief medical officer of National Spine and Pain Centers, the largest integrated network of pain physicians in the United States.

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The device works by sending electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve, opening up the lungs and increasing airflow in COVID-19 patients. GammaCore, which is typically used to treat migraines, is now one of the latest tools in the fight against COVID-19.

“We may be able to alter the course of the disease such that, if you can breathe better, you won’t need to go on a mechanical ventilator,” Dr. Staats explained.

Patients can use this at home on their own, but they would need a prescription from a doctor to obtain the device. Marshall got his device while he was in the hospital and he says it has made all the difference.

“Trust me, when you cannot breathe and there’s no other options, it’s a tremendous thing,” expressed Dr. Bedder.

Dr. Staats says the stimulation that GammaCore provides to the vagus nerve can also reduce inflammation and ease the long-term effects of COVID-19.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer; Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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COVID-19: Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome known as SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome known as MERS. In 2019, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China. The virus is now known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.


HOW COVID-19 AFFECTS YOUR BODY AND LUNGS: The lungs are the first organ affected by COVID-19. In the early days of an infection, the novel coronavirus rapidly invades cells in the respiratory system. COVID-19 is thought to attack the epithelial cells lining the airways flooding our airways with debris and fluids. People who become sick with COVID-19 may experience mild to severe disease, or in many cases be asymptomatic. COVID-19 symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, can come on suddenly. COVID-19 can infect the upper or lower part of your respiratory tract. It travels down your airways and the lining can become irritated and inflamed. In some cases, the infection can reach all the way down into your alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs). About 14% of COVID-19 cases are severe, with the infection affecting both lungs. As the swelling gets worse, your lungs fill with fluid and debris. You may also have more serious pneumonia. The air sacs fill with mucus, fluid, and other cells that are trying to fight the infection. This can make it harder for your body to take in oxygen and you may have trouble breathing, feel short of breath or you may breathe faster. About 5% of cases are critical where the infection can damage the walls and linings of the air sacs in your lungs. As your body tries to fight it, your lungs become more inflamed and fill with fluid and this can make it harder for them to swap oxygen and carbon dioxide. You might have severe pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In the most critical cases, your lungs need help from a machine called a ventilator to do their job.


GAMMACORE SAPPHIRE CV DEVICE: The GammaCore Sapphire CV was granted an Emergency Use Authorization in July for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 who have asthma-related dyspnea (shortness of breath) and decreased airflow. It can be used at home or in a healthcare setting. Research shows that VNS treatment can affect almost every organ, potentially easing more systemic and long-term COVID-19 symptoms. The GammaCore Sapphire CV device sends electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve, which serves as the body’s command center and plays a crucial role in regulating signals throughout the body. Co-Inventor Peter Staats, MD. believes the biggest benefit may be its role in stopping the cytokine storm seen in severe COVID-19 cases. In a cytokine storm, a person’s immune system responds to the virus by going on overdrive and sending out a stream of inflammatory molecules that can lead to deteriorating conditions, organ damage, or death. He also says because a body can create this response, it must have a mechanism to dampen it, and that is what tapping into the vagus nerve can do. The vagus nerve trails down to the spleen, where inflammatory mediators are made. By stimulating the vagus nerve, you can block the production of these pro-inflammatory cytokines.






If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Peter Staats, MD, MBA, FIPP, Chief Medical Officer

Read the entire Q&A