With European Migraine Day of Action last week, it gave us an opportunity to take stock of where we are. We recognize that, although great advancements have been made in migraine care, there is still more that can be done to ensure that the burden of this debilitating disease is reduced. This will require political will and for European leaders to better understand migraine as a condition.
Headache services should better address patients' unmet needs
Gaps exist in migraine care, which prevent millions of patients worldwide from receiving optimal and timely care. A lack of migraine knowledge among sufferers continues to lead many with the disease to assume they ‘just have a headache’, leaving them suffering in silence.[i] These people will often end up pushing through and putting on a brave face, rather than seeking care. Worldwide, 60% of people with headache disorders are not properly diagnosed,[ii] and almost 70% do not seek medical advice for their symptoms.[iii]
This translates to sub-optimal care on a massive scale. Approximately half of all people worldwide living with a headache disorder are primarily self-treating and not in contact with any healthcare professionals.
Even patients that do seek medical help often do not receive the correct diagnosis or the most appropriate treatments. The roots of this lie mostly in a lack of understanding around the condition among some healthcare professionals, as well as limited accessibility to appropriate care.
Appropriate funding must be allocated for high-quality migraine care
While often underestimated, the burden of migraine places significant economic strain on healthcare systems, employers, and individuals living with the disease and their families. Indirect costs of headaches vastly outweigh direct treatment-related cost,[iv] while lost productivity and high healthcare resource utilization mean migraine costs European economies as much as €50 billion a year.[v] Compounding the problem, suffering from migraine increases the risk of other physical and mental health conditions, which means people with migraine often experience higher healthcare costs generally.
Taking steps to make appropriate care accessible to all those living with migraine
Now for the better news. We are in the midst of a revolution in migraine care. Recent advancements in our understanding of migraine—both scientifically and societally—have resulted in the development of new therapies and more meaningful care approaches. Lilly, with its commitment to help people affected by migraine, continues to invest in research and innovation in this area.
Political support is critical in making meaningful change a reality. The emphasis must be on improving care and advancing a healthcare system that meets patients’ needs. Migraine must be made a priority and policies must be created that support optimal patient care, including:
- Enhancing professional training on migraine for all healthcare professionals.
- Implementing care pathways addressing patients’ needs.
- Ensuring appropriate funding and access for high-quality migraine care.
- Increasing public understanding and awareness of migraine.
- Improving work-related outcomes for people with migraine.
[i] Katsarava, et al. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2018; 19:10.
[ii] Steiner, et al. Time to act, J Headache Pain. 2011. 12:501–503.
[iii] Diamond, Journal of Women’s Health. 2007b; 16:9 1269-1280.
[iv] Linde, et al. European Journal of Neurology. 2012; 19: 703-e43.
[v] Linde, et al. European Journal of Neurology. 2012; 19: 703-e43.