Will Israeli Product ‘ReWalk’ Make Wheelchairs Obsolete?

By Merav Turel, NoCamels September 24, 2012 Comments

Two years ago, inspired by a “Glee” Christmas episode, we wrote about the wonder of ReWalk –  an alternative mobility solution to the wheelchair for individuals with severe walking impairments, enabling them to stand, walk, use stairs and more. Back then, we wrote: “The ReWalk exists but was only recently approved in the US for institutional use by the Food and Drug Administration. That means only hospitals and rehab centers will be able to purchase the device, starting early next year, so it’s not going to end up under anyone’s Christmas tree any time soon.”

Fast forward about two years and it seems we were unduly pessimistic. ARGO Medical Technologies, alongside mobility solutions provider, Cyclone Technologies, told NoCamels that the ReWalk exoskeleton is now available to take home for daily use throughout Europe.

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“We are officially launching the ReWalk personal use system in the EU with this start in the UK. It’s our aim to get as many individuals as possible walking again, and the launch of the ReWalk will allow customers to use the technology for a range of activities. It truly is the beginning of ‘Rewalking’ as a part of daily life,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO of ARGO Medical Technologies.

Invented by Israeli entrepreneur and founder of ARGO Medical Technologies, Dr. Amit Goffer, himself paralyzed from the waist down, the ReWalk is designed to help individuals with lower-limb disabilities such as paraplegia. It provides individuals with user-initiated mobility through the integration of a light wearable brace support, a computer-based control system and motion sensors.

ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd., founded in 2001 and situated in Northern Israel, has been developing, manufacturing and marketing walk restoration devices for people with lower limb disabilities. When using their devices, the user is actively involved and has control of all mobility functions, through unique control processes.

ReWalk marathon runner proved skeptics wrong

The company’s long-lasting vision was considered more of a sci-fi illusion than a reality for years. However, after Claire Lomas, paralyzed after a horse-riding accident, took part in the 2012 London Marathon walk using the ReWalk – many of the skeptics became believers. Now, ReWalk is being launched for everyday personal use.

For safety reasons, using the ReWalk-P (personal) will be conditioned on a prior medical examination and successful completion of a training program in a rehabilitation center. “Just like a driving license, only a person that had sufficient training and has proven to be capable of using the product will get the permit for the ReWalk-P,” Oren Tamari COO of ARGO Medical Technologies, told NoCamels.

ReWalk, the initial product upon which the ReWalk-P is based, is a new realization of the powered exoskeleton concept. Walking is controlled through subtle changes in center of gravity, and stability and safety are secured by the use of crutches. It enables people with lower limb disabilities such as Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and Spinal Bifida to carry out routine ambulatory functions and regain the sense of self-control over their own body.

“The first real step forward in 100 years”

“It amazed me that in the 21st  century, where change is measured in nanoseconds, there remain over five million mobility-impaired people in the developed world for whom little has changed since the early 1900’s,” noted Dr. Amit Goffer, founder of ARGO Medical Technologies, in one of the company’s press releases. “The sedentary wheelchair, with all its known detrimental impact on physical and mental health, productivity and inclusion, was until now the standard for mobility.” He added: “By providing a realistic alternative to the wheelchair, ReWalk is actually the first real step forward in mobility assistance in almost 100 years.”

By restoring upright mobility, the product promises to improve quality of life and physical health and to reduce the need for physical therapy and re-hospitalization that occur due to immobility-related complications in individuals with severe walking impairments.

By maintaining users upright on a daily basis and exercising even paralyzed limbs in the course of movement, Goffer says that ReWalk could alleviate many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use.

As a personal device, the ReWalk-P can be used indoors and outdoors in almost any urban scenario.

Though the product is among the more expensive devices in the market today and is so far not included in insurance packages, Tamari tells NoCamels that ARGO is working on changing that. “It is a high-end product (and is priced) accordingly. As for today the ReWalk-P is not reimbursable by health insurance but we are working hard (and trying) to make it partially or fully reimbursable”

Photos by Argo Medical Technologies Ltd.

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