The Cost-effective Potential of Migraine Research and Treatment

Migraine awareness month 2014
June 17, 2014
Jim Carleton

The lack of funding, both public and private, in the area of migraine disorders is truly a puzzle to me. Perhaps it is because migraine disorders lack the impact of a “butcher’s bill” that other potentially lethal diseases like HIV, Cancer, Lymphoma, and Hepatitis C lay claim to. Or, as suggested in last week’s blog on stigma, ingrained attitudes on migraine being a life style disorder, rather than a true disease, influences funding executives and critical decision-making at that level. Regardless of the reason, much research on the extent and ultimate cost of migraine disorders continues to emerge and beg the fundamental question: why is research into the cause and treatment of migraine disorders systematically ignored?

One hopes that the premise information changes behavior will be at work here, but I would temper that by saying that it will take time to sink in. Attitudes do not change easily. Take cigarette smoking as an example. We have known since the early 1960s that smoking and cancer have a causal link. 50 years later, plus millions of dollars annually dedicated to prevention and treatment, exorbitant sin taxes as a deterrent, and widespread anti-smoking legislation, people still smoke. The good news is smoking among adult Americans has shrunk from 42% to 18% of the population. There is a lesson here for migraine research and treatment. That lesson is time, money, research, and a multi-faceted approach that affects attitudes toward migraine is a good beginning. Thanks to research emerging in the last 10 years, much of it leveraged by the internet, a much clearer picture of the personal and economic chaos migraine disorders have wrought is emerging.

Statistics and numbers can be mind-numbing without a real connection to the lives we lead. So, as I share these statistics with you, the product of extensive studies done by American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) and the International Burden of Migraine Study (IBMS), I ask you to try and make a real life connection:

  • The World Health Organization defines migraine as one of the 20 most disabling illnesses.

  • Per the IBMS there are 44.5 million migraineurs in the US, and 4.9 million in Canada.

  • Per the IBMS the average direct cost per year for migraine-related medical treatment per chronic migraine sufferer in the US is over $4000.

  • Per the AMPP there are 113 million lost workdays due to headache/migraine.

  • Per the AMPP the economy loses $13 Billion annually due to compromised worker productivity, attributable to chronic migraine suffering.

  • Despite these unnerving numbers, the NIH devoted $19 Million in 2013, which is less than 1% of their research budget portfolio to research on migraine disorders.

It is difficult to imagine how such compelling numbers can be ignored. Not to oversimplify, but from a purely economic perspective, more funding equals more research, equals better treatment options, equals enhanced productivity. Not to mention a sought after decrease in human suffering.

Funding more migraine associated research is a win-win for everyone. Help us make it happen. Participate in legitimate migraine charities. Make your voice heard. Over 40 million voices can be mighty loud!