What Must We Do to Get Attention?
Given that migraine statistics are so staggering, how can it be that the corresponding funding, research and public awareness are so utterly lacking?
- One billion people in the world have migraines.
- 38 million migraine sufferers are in the US. Of those, 28 million are women.
- There are 4 million chronic daily migraine sufferers (experiencing at least 15 migraine days a month). 85% of those are women.
- Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent and the 6th most disabling illness in the world.
- 1 in 4 US household includes someone with migraine.1
Despite these troubling statistics, there is little in the way of research for new medications, accompanying media attention, or migraine specialists responding to the need.
The lack of funding and research
In 2015, NIH funding for migraine research was just $.50 per sufferer. This is clearly insufficient in relation to what is needed to develop new solutions in the field. Afterall, there are currently few choices when it comes to treating and preventing migraines. Many of the medications now prescribed for the condition were initially created for another purpose and were only incidentally found to work on migraines. Only a handful of solutions were created and tailored specifically for the condition itself. Triptans and Cetafly (tailor-made for migraine treatment/prevention) and Botox and Topamax (created for other purposes but found effective for the treatment/prevention of migraine) are currently the only options that are FDA-approved for migraine. A new promising preventative therapy involving antibodies, called CGRP (Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide) is currently in the final stages of research. It is expected to be available in the coming years. Still, there are worlds more to explore in terms of migraine solutions.
Currently, because the treatment choices are few and often come up short:
- Doctors are left stitching together individualized approaches for each patient from a world of medications not intended for migraine.
- People with migraines are left knitting together their own treatment strategies, desperate for relief. Each person creates a combination of prescription, OTC medications, nutritional supplements, and perhaps other remedies and body therapies.
- These realities often leave the migraine patient feeling like a guinea pig- juggling various side effects atop the migraines.
Who is our spokesperson?
To gain funding for research, we need more attention on the issue. But unfortunately, many still view the condition as “just a headache” and a women’s issue. There is much to do in the way of raising public awareness about the condition being a complex neurological condition involving many symptoms and all ages and genders. There are Miles for Migraine and other similar fund and awareness raising events emerging across the country which are helping. Migraine.com is also doing worlds to help people better understand the condition. But much more needs doing. Finding a notable spokesperson would also greatly help to raise awareness and funding. Regrettably, it doesn’t seem that any famous person is rushing to become the face of migraine. That perhaps is a reflection of the fact that the illness still has such a stigma of negativity and weakness related to it.
Call for more migraine specialists
Deepening the bench of migraine specialists is also key in addressing the many shortcomings that exist. In 2016, there were only about 500 certified headache specialists in the U.S. to help the 38 million sufferers. Finding ways (through public awareness, funding and research) to entice and interest new doctors to choose the field of migraine medicine will help address the enormous need.
Desperately seeking funding & research
Even though migraines have been around for hundreds of years, the condition is still relatively young in terms of being studied or understood. Indeed, it was only very recently that researchers figured out that migraine is a complex neurological condition rather than something simply driven by blood vessels expanding and contracting. There is much more to discover in relation to migraine and the development of treatment options. To shed light on the condition, we need funding - and to gain funding, we need public awareness and greater understanding. In the meantime, we are left with few options. I personally have high hopes for the future as I believe that with more research, enormous strides will finally be made in terms of solutions, hopefully in our lifetimes.
What can you do?
- Forward migraine.com articles to your friends and family to help them better understand your condition.
- If you know anyone who has the means to contribute, encourage them to donate to a reputable migraine research foundation.
- If you have connections with a celebrity with migraine, encourage them to “come out of the migraine closet” and tell their story publically.
- If you know any doctors in training, encourage them to consider pursuing a career as a migraine specialist.
Which are you most sensitive to?