This February witnessed the tenth anniversary of "Headache on the Hill", the highly successful annual advocacy event, sponsored by the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA), designed to draw attention to the need for increased funding for migraines and related headache disorders. Apart from being the tenth consecutive advocacy year, this year was also remarkable for another reason: the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), in the Summer of 2016.
CARA, primarily known for its focus on opioid addiction and treatment, also provides a vehicle that allows for funding pain research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) . In particular that is Section 108. If fully funded, significant research monies would be directed to alternative opioid medications, a better understanding of chronic pain, the genetics of pain and other noteworthy areas. Thus, the strategy in this year's advocacy was to expand the efforts to embrace "pain" in general and aggressively support CARA. In doing so we would include one of the most common and expensive sources of "pain": migraine.
The rationale for attacking pain in general, rather than the more narrow band of migraine is really quite inspired. A few facts about pain that informed this strategy:
- At $600 Billion per year "pain" is the single most costly US Health Problem, and comprises 3.5% of our GNP.
- A reduction in pain costs by just 1% could save $6 Billion annually.
- Much of these savings could be realized through cost reductions in entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, and SSDI, and dramatically improve the quality of life for sufferers.
Also, it is estimated over 100 million people suffer from crippling, chronic pain in the United States alone. That is approximately 25% of the entire population. Included in that number is 36 Million migraineurs. Not only does it make good medical sense to come to grips with this problem, but it also makes good economic sense. If so inclined, you can contact your congressional delegation and urge them to authorize funding for CARA, especially Section 108. It will not occur automatically. We'll be contacting the legislators periodically ourselves.
In the middle of the event, a luncheon was sponsored by The Headache and Migraine Policy Forum. This working lunch featured Dr. Kenneth Thorpe's presentation on "Prevalence, Health Care Spending and Co morbidities Associated with Chronic Migraine Patients". This wide ranging white paper advocated for a "whole person approach" when treating an illness like migraine that is often associated with multiple co morbidities. Dr. Thorpe is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Possibly the most significant take away from several days of near constant advocacy is how important a role we all can play. Our Congressional Delegations listen to us. Especially when message can have such positive outcomes. Again we suggest contacting your Delegation and mentioning both CARA and Section 108 specifically. It is the only way our message can be heard. And hopefully acted upon in a way that benefits us all.