Primary care settings have high migraine prevalence

September 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The prevalence of migraine in patients visiting a primary care doctor for reasons other than migraine is more than twice as high as in the general population.

In the study, patients visiting primary care physicians at 28 sites were screened for headache, and a sample of 770 were sent to a headache specialist for evaluation and diagnosis of headache. The study showed the overall prevalence of migraine sufferers in a primary care waiting room to be 29%, as compared with a 12% prevalence in the general population.

"There were two very important findings that came out of this study - first, it showed a significantly higher prevalence of undetected migraine patients in the primary care setting," said James Couch of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, "and second, we also discovered that an overwhelming majority – more than 90% – of these sufferers reported that their migraine affected their ability to function. More than one-third of them experienced substantial or extremely incapacitating disability, meaning they would have lost a number of days to this debilitating condition if they had not been properly diagnosed and treated with migraine-specific treatment."

Identification efforts needed

Couch said the results of the study demonstrated that physicians need to make a greater effort to identify their patients who might qualify for migraine treatment. "In light of the high rates of underdiagnosis and undertreatment of migraine nationally, this study underscores the need for greater efforts in identifying potential migraine sufferers in primary care practice," Couch said. "Once identified, these patients will be able to find effective migraine treatment."

The study was sponsored by New York-based Pfizer Inc. PR

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