Nerve testing device stirs controversy

A popular nerve-testing device is raising concerns among some critics, who say that the potential for profiting from its use may be putting patients at risk. NC-stat, made by small medical device firm Neurometrix, is designed to test patients for nerve disease. Medicare will pay for tests done with the NC-stat, which costs about $5,000. NC-stat is used largely by general practitioners, who say that they want to help patients get to the root of their problems quickly. But neurologists argue that general practitioners, who can make as much as $250 for 15 minutes of work, can be lured by the profit potential into making diagnoses they're not fully trained to make. In one case, a patient diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome with the NC-stat actually had a brain tumor, according to The New York Times. Since the FDA approved the device in 1998, more than 500,000 patients have been tested, according to Neurometrix estimates. But it's possible Neurometrix may have been too aggressive in promoting the NC-stat. Federal regulators are questioning its marketing tactics--alleging possible kickbacks--and private companies are wavering on whether they will pay for the test, questioning whether clinical evidence is strong enough yet that the device works.

To find out more about the device:
- read the piece from The New York Times