Editor’s Note: Tom Muehlbauer is President and CEO of Avacen Medical, which develops products for the non-narcotic treatment of chronic pain. Avacen is also a sponsor of the National Pain Report. His column addresses some of the hurdles that business people encounter in trying to develop treatment of chronic pain.
In reading a recent National Pain Report post “Can the Fibromyalgia Code Fix Stupid?” from Rosemary Lee, I realized I have also had to address “stupid” as it relates to raising capital to build and market a unique medical device based on some excellent clinical trials for fibromyalgia.
I have actually decided to write a book about my journey (tentative title: “750 Miles per Gallon”). In the book outline I have a chapter about what it takes to specifically fight stupid to deliver an effective drug free medical treatment for fibromyalgia. The Chapter is titled “No Where to Land.” In it, I talk about visiting with a seasoned investor several years ago (one who lives every minute by the Golden Rule: “He who has the Gold makes the Rules”).
I’ll never forget this particular meeting. First of all, I was very excited to speak to this potential investor because we had just received excellent news regarding the results of our fibromyalgia clinical trials. And second, this would surely get our device approved by the FDA (this subject fills a couple of chapters) as the first medical device indicated to treat the widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia (unfortunately, a huge international market).
After some chit-chat about San Diego Chargers football, he leaned back in his chair, looked me in the eye, then with a half-smile on his face asked; “So… you want me to invest in a new airline that is going to fly to a city that doesn’t exist?” At first I thought he must think I am someone else. Just as I was about to reintroduce myself, I noticed he was holding my Private Placement Memorandum in his right hand. Then I realized that it was his very clever way (in his mind) of telling me that even though our fibromyalgia clinical trials where over-the-top, he thought I didn’t have a market for my device because fibromyalgia doesn’t exist.
I tried to educate him. Even had a lady with severe fibromyalgia, who was using our device, on standby to speak about her experience and no longer needing to use Lyrica (she and her husband later became significant investors).
Talk about having your celebration balloon popped! After a few more similar meetings I was, just like Rosemary, almost embarrassed to say the word fibromyalgia.
Then one day I remembered that professional investors are looking for reasons to say no, so for a time I dropped discussing fibromyalgia and concentrated on the raising capital to fund trials for migraines and autoimmune diseases; even bigger markets for which we had great anecdotal results. This worked.
Of course things have changed since then. More people have heard about fibromyalgia and especially those practicing medicine understand it is a very serious problem. Well as I recently discovered… not everyone.
Only a few weeks ago a M.D. from Florida was the first to visit our table at “PainWeek” in Las Vegas. Intrigued by our backdrop showing people in different sports attire, framed by our “Pain Free is Freedom” motto, he stopped abruptly to ask what we were about. After explaining our novel approach to pain treatment he asked, “any clinical trials?”
Sure do… I happily exclaimed! Partnered with The Department of Veteran Affairs and University of California San Diego. Really great results!! I expect we will be the first medical device to be FDA approved to treat fibromyalgia.
His response, “Fibromyalgia? Those people are crazy. I won’t treat them… they waste my time. I have a meeting to attend. Good luck.” I was in shock and by the time I was composed enough to respond, he was gone.
Since then I have thought about getting some stickers printed to use in such situations. Our booth staff would then be tasked to discreetly place the sticker on the back of those who express stupid opinions. The stickers will say “KICK ME… I’M STUPID!”