JAMIE BECHTEL, PH.D
Jamie Bechtel is the co-founder and CEO of New Course, and is a highly regarded leader in international conservation and poverty alleviation. Jamie is an adviser to the Clinton Global Initiative and was recently honored in Fast Company Magazine as 1 of 60 women heroes. Jamie is also the co-founder of Mater Technologies.
Today’s medical system is highly siloed, with little communication between disciplines. With regard to extremely complex yet little understood disorders, such as ADHD, autism, or tic disorders, this translates into an inadequate flow of information between doctors as well as between medical practitioners and patients. This gap in communication is further aggravated by the fact that since some symptoms are transient, doctors often take either a “wait and see” approach or a “medicate the symptoms” approach. This leaves little room for more nuanced solutions that are much in demand by parents who are seeking, and often finding, alternative treatment options to both managing symptoms of tic disorders as well as identifying and treating underlying causes.
Understanding the link between visual health and some chronic neurological conditions is emerging as one potential approach. An interesting study found that over 50% of children with ADHD, OCD, and dyspraxia in a research project had convergence insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency is an eye disorder that can often be treated, with solutions ranging from reading glasses to vision therapy. When a child has convergence insufficiency, one eye tends to drift slightly while reading. When we read, each eye takes in an image and those images are meshed together in the brain so that you see a single picture. When one eye drifts slightly, the images do not align in the brain and this can result in double vision. However, in many children, their vision appears “normal” but the brain has to work so hard to discern the information that other issues such as ADHD-like behavior, tics, extreme agitation, or fatigue can emerge. Importantly, convergence insufficiency can occur in eyes with good vision acuity and the condition is generally not noticeable. Further, a child who sees double when reading may have no idea that this is not a normal experience.
Convergence insufficiency is not the only eye-related issue that has been found to be associated with disorders such as tics, OCD, ADHD, and autism among others. Saccadic eye movement, eye tracking, and fixed mobilization are other eye disorders that often go undetected yet can have a tremendous impact on kids with these disorders.
The dawn of REPREEVE
Four years ago I co-founded a small medical device company called Mater Technologies. The first product we developed, REPREEVE, was designed to treat an eye disorder called nystagmus. Nystagmus causes uncontrolled eye movement, making many aspects of life difficult. REPREEVE is a chemical-free, non-invasive approach that we have found provides relief for some people with nystagmus. In short, REPREEVE is a set of six, small Band-Aid like patches that are worn continuously in six different locations on the body. Each patch contains a little bead of inactive substance that puts pressure on the skin.
While doing research on nystagmus, we learned that other conditions had some commonalities with nystagmus, including difficulty with convergence. While this has been documented in the medical literature, there is no overlap in the areas of expertise of doctors working on nystagmus or tics and related disorders, so the information is simply not making it into mainstream medical practice.
Nystagmus runs in my family. My brother, who suffers from nystagmus, was one of the first people to benefit from REPREEVE. Then, two years ago my son was diagnosed with a tic disorder at the age of eight. Based on our research, we decided to try REPREEVE for him. He was then able to manage his tics successfully. REPREEVE also improved his convergence insufficiency.
As I scientist, I recognize the improbability of the success of REPREEVE. As a mom, I am immensely grateful for it. Last year we made a very difficult decision. We knew that REPREEVE was safe. We also knew it would work on some people but not on others. We decided to make it available on a limited basis while we went about the difficult task of figuring out the science behind its success, identifying who it would help, and determining other disorders that it could be used to treat. In order to sell REPREEVE with a clean conscious we made several business decisions. First and foremost, we do not sell REPREEVE to anyone who does not try a sample first. A sample contains approximately three days’ worth of REPREEVE. If a customer does not see a difference in that timeframe, we advise them to NOT buy the product. Secondly, we make ourselves available to each and every customer to explain what the results mean and to adjust patch locations so that comfort and effect are maximized. We also work with a network of eye practitioners because if a customer does in fact respond to REPREEVE, that means that other solutions may also work. We do not have a business relationship with these practitioners. In other words, we don’t get any kickbacks.
Simultaneous to this, Mater Tech is working with several doctors to run trials. Again, these doctors have no financial interest in our company. For example, we are currently running an alpha study in the Seattle area with Alderwood Vision Therapy. The doctors at the eye center have worked with many insurance programs and the costs are covered by most major insurance companies. If you know of someone in the Seattle area who suffers from tic disorders, this is an excellent opportunity to work with a highly regarded doctor to test the potential benefit of REPREEVE or other vision treatments.
I wish I could tell you we have a silver bullet for everyone. I can tell you that we have a silver bullet for some people. For others, REPREEVE has not provided “a cure” but rather a way to take breaks from a difficult disorder. Some people wear REPREEVE around the clock. Others, like my son, wear REPREEVE only at school, where he needs a social and physical break from his tics. I have provided a few testimonials below from parents who have a child with tics or related issues.
We look forward to learning more about REPREEVE in the years ahead. Mostly, we look forward to helping kids get through their day focused less on the stress of tics and more on just being a kid.
Testimonials on REPREEVE
“Five years ago our son was diagnosed with transient tics. They would vary in frequency and move throughout his body. After we started him with REPREEVE we witnessed a significant decrease in his tics. Everything became easier and more peaceful with him, which made all of us happy and reassured.” Sarah, regarding her 10-year-old son who has transient tics
“John sleeps better when he wears REPREEVE and he definitely does not lick his lips as much!” Allison, regarding her son with tics
“Sorry to take a while to get back. I have to say this is really unexpected. The difference between the days [he] wears the patches and the days he doesn’t is very noticeable. I would estimate total stuttering instances are down 50% on the days he wears them. Moreover, the heavy blockages/jaw tightness/tics are almost completely gone.”
Allen regarding his son, 17, who has a persistent stutter
My daughter has been diagnosed with convergence insufficiency, eye tracking deficiency and focusing difficulties. A a three-month program of vision therapy has been recommended, which we will be starting next week. Meanwhile, her tics have improved and we have attributed part of this improvement to the drop in pollen counts in our area. We are hoping that the vision therapy will provide even more improvement. She continues to wear her REPREEVE patches and we feel that she is certainly less symptomatic while she has them on.
Tanya, regarding her daughter with allergy and tics
“I’ve been battling migraines for most of my adult like. Repreeve is by far the most effective treatment I have experienced. For the first time ever, using the product stopped my migraine in its tracks.”
Kathleen, 44, a migraine sufferer
I am very happy to report that even though my daughter’s [severe] tics are not 100% gone, she is finally doing much better, and has been able to return to school. . . It is too much [to be] a coincidence–the almost immediate relief my daughter enjoyed, after 9 months of being completely annoyed by her tics. She says the REPREEVE patches are diminishing her urges to tic.
Sandra, whose daughter has verbal and vocal tics