Limited output transcranial electrical stimulation (LOTES-2017): Engineering principles, regulatory statutes, and industry standards for wellness, over-the-counter, or prescription devices with low risk. Download: PDF

Marom Bikson, Bhaskar Paneri, Andoni Mourdoukoutas, Zeinab Esmaeilpour, Bashar W. Badran, Robin Azzam, Devin Adair, Abhishek Datta, Xiao Hui Fang, Brett Wingeiner, Daniel Chao, Miguel Alonso-Alonso, Kiwon Lee, Helena Knotkova, Adam J. Woods, David Hagedorn, Doug Jeffery, James Giordano, William J. Tyler.


We present device standards for low-power non-invasive electrical brain stimulation devices classified as limited output transcranial electrical stimulation (tES). Emerging applications of limited output tES to modulate brain function span techniques to stimulate brain or nerve structures, including transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), and trancranial pulsed current stimulation (tPCS), have engendered discussion on how access to technology  should be regulated. In regards to legal regulations and manufacturing standards for comparable technologies, a comprehensive framework already exists, including quality systems (QS), risk management, and (inter) national electrotechnical standards (IEC). In Part 1, relevant statutes are described for medical and wellness application. While agencies overseeing medical devices have broad jurisdiction, enforcement typically focuses on those devices with medical claims or posing significant risk. Consumer protections regarding responsible marketing and manufacture apply regardless. In Part 2 of this paper, we classify the electrical output performance of devices cleared by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription electrostimulation devices, devices available for therapeutic or cosmetic purposes, and devices indicated for stimulationof the body or head. Examples include iontophoresis devices, powered muscle stimulators (PMS), cranial electrotheraphy stimulation (CES), and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices. Spanning over 13 FDA product codes, more than 1200 electrical stimulators have been cleared for marketing since 1977. The output characteristics of conventional tDCS,tACS, and tPCS techniques are well below those of most FDA cleared devices, including devices that are available OTC and those intended for stimulation on the head. This engineering analysis demonstrates that with regard to output performance and standing regulation, the availability of tDCS, tACS, or tPCS to the public would not introduce risk, provided such devices are responsibly manufactured and legally marketed. In Part 3, we develop voluntary manufacturer guidance for limited output tES that is aligned with current regulatory standards. Based on established medical engineering and scientific principles, we outline a robust and transparent technical framework for ensuring limited output tES devices are designed to minimize risks, while also supporting access and innovation. Alongside applicable medical and government activities , this voluntary industry standard (LOTES-2017) further serves an important role in supporting informed decisions by the public.


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