Awareness Month Highlights Migraine’s Impact, Lack of Treatments

Some wore shades, others “showed purple.”  But advocates across the board used June’s Migraine & Headache Awareness Month to draw attention to a condition whose patients face debilitating symptoms and far too few treatment options.

Their efforts revealed several common themes.

Impact. As a new infographic from ResearchAmerica! explains, 12 percent of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches.  They affect women more than men by a ratio of 3:1.  Migraine is responsible for $36 million each year in health care and lost productivity costs, with employers experiencing $13 billion in losses and 113 million days of missed work.

[SEE: Who Are Migraines Hurting?]

Stigma. Whether it’s having migraine pain downplayed or being passed over for opportunities at work, stigma is a challenge for migraine patients in the workplace.  This month the Aimed Alliance released a brochure explaining how employers might accommodate women with migraine – and reminding these women of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Funding.  “Migraine is not just a headache,” explained Mayo Clinic physician Amaal Starling, MD, at ResearchAmerica!’s June 15 Capitol Hill briefing, “Migraine is a neurologic disease that deserves funding based on disease burden.”  Yet the National Institutes of Health 2015 spending on research for headache disorders was less than 0.08 percent of the total NIH budget, according to the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy.

Treatment options. Despite migraine’s complexity and impact, treatment options are scarce.  And they often address only the condition’s pain.  Migraine patients who seek care in the emergency room, for instance, receive a prescription for opioids 59 percent of the time – even though these medications can trigger side effects or even additional headaches.

[SEE: Why Migraine Sufferers Need Alternatives to Opioids]

The Headache and Migraine Policy Forum’s director, Lindsay Videnieks, reflected on the importance of this month’s efforts, saying, “Awareness is a critical first step toward achieving the research funding and, ultimately, the treatment options that migraine patients deserve.   This is a condition that hurts not just patients, but their workplaces, families and communities as well.”

Review social media coverage of the month under #MHAM and #Migraine.

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