Taking Stock

June 30, 2016
Jim Carleton

As an ardent follower of the recent advances in the understanding and treatment of migraine disorders I am impressed with the great strides made over the last 24 months. It is remarkable that since the 1990s and the introduction of triptans, so much significant work in both prevention and treatment is now coming to fruition. So why now? What forces conspired to move the migraine agenda forward? I think it is important that we look at this question in an effort to ascertain why these positive results have occurred and our agenda has continued to gain traction. Following are a few ideas and some suggestions for the future, and sustainability.

First, more so than ever before, migraine is being recognized as a discrete illness, leaving an enormous amount of suffering in its wake. The emergence of a myriad of non-profits and grass roots organizations have increased public and professional awareness and raised the visibility of this incredibly destructive disease. As a result, more research is being undertaken, to identify etiology and develop targeted preventative medications. In this climate, pharmaceutical companies have sensed an opportunity. A potential target pointing to a market of 36 million is an enticing objective. Regardless of the current motivation, the increase in awareness has assuredly driven the race to first capture the rights to an effective preventative medication. We can only hope that the ultimate cost of blessed relief will be within the means of the migraineurs who desperately need it. That chapter remains to be written.

Second, as we come to realize that migraine illness has many superficially disparate expressions, a number of medical specialties become involved. Neurologists, Otolaryngologists, Gastroenterologists, Dentists, Ophthalmologists, all have a stake in resolving migraine illness. As a lay person I am concerned about “siloing”, and territoriality. Many disciplines have significant input into understanding this disease process. Cross fertilization of ideas and dialogue can only have positive results. No one discipline “owns” migraine treatment. But a consolidated, informed effort across specialties will only add to what should be the ultimate goal: relieving patient suffering. Communication and collaboration is a the goal here and should be pursued vigorously. Which brings me to my third and final point.

We live in an age of transformational information growth. People and groups communicate at a speed hitherto unheard of. This ability to communicate near instantaneously has leveraged the migraine movement beyond measure. Just today I was contacted by another large migraine organization that read our tweets, visited our website, and now wants to collaborate. 15 years ago this would not have been possible with such rapidity. The growth of the information age works in our favor, both lay and professional. Surely it is one of our greatest assets.

So in closing, this 2016 Migraine Awareness Month, we believe the future looks bright. Great advances are gaining velocity. However, we all must continue to connect, pull together, and utilize the gifts that have been bestowed upon us. If we follow this path, with hope and singularity of purpose, we cannot fail.