Headache treatments lag behind

May 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

A 10-year study conducted by the national headache foundation reveals that patient treatment patterns for migraine have not kept pace with major scientific breakthroughs in the field.

A 10-year study conducted by the national headache foundation reveals that patient treatment patterns for migraine have not kept pace with major scientific breakthroughs in the field.

The study, the American Migraine Study II, examined the state of migraine care over the past decade and shows that the majority of patients report severe disability and the need for bed rest due to an inability to control their headache pain and associated migraine symptoms. The study revealed that the 48% of sufferers who have received a diagnosis from a doctor suffer to a similar degree as those who have never had their migraines diagnosed.

"We hope this call to action and coming together of healthcare professionals from a wide range of disciplines will help us close the gap between the effective treatments available and the millions who continue to suffer from migraine," said Suzanne Simmons, executive director of the National Headache Foundation.

The study was conducted for the National Headache Foundation and underwritten by a grant from Glaxo Wellcome Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC. Results from the study were released at the 13th Annual Conference of the Diamond Headache Clinical Research and Education Foundation, held in Palm Springs, CA.

The new data show that one in every four U.S. households – 13% of the U.S. population – has a migraine sufferer. When left untreated, sufferers typically experience a significant deterioration in their quality of life. Fifty-one percent of sufferers said that during their migraine headaches they experienced a 50% or more reduction in work and/or school productivity. Thirty-nine percent of patients report migraine pain so severe they are driven to their beds – sometimes for days at a time.

Additional results

Other findings of the study revealed:


•Â Total U.S. migraine prevalence was virtually the same in 1999 (12.6%) as in 1998 (12.1%) – current incidence (28 million) has increased since 1989 (24 million) with the growth in population.


•Â Only 48% of respondents who met the clinical definition of migraine report ever having their condition diagnosed by a physician.


•Â Eighty percent said their migraine headaches were severe or extremely severe, and 24% report seeking emergency room care as a result of an attack.


•Â Despite advances in prescription medications designed to treat migraine, 57% of migraine headache sufferers report still using only over-the-counter medications for treatment – virtually the same percentage as 10 years ago (59%).


•Â While sufferers with a physician diagnosis tend to have more severe migraines and report more symptoms versus the undiagnosed, there is a high level of suffering reported by both groups.

"People with migraine headaches must see their doctors regularly," said Simmons. "If they've dropped out of the healthcare system and thought there was nothing that could be done for their headaches, they need to go back."

Simmons concluded: "People need to become more proactive and champion their own health." PR

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