October 19, 2017

SWHR Engages on Migraine and Women’s Health

Migraine is the second leading cause of global disability, affecting 1.04 billion individuals worldwide and more than 47 million in the U.S. alone. Three times as prevalent in women compared to men, this debilitating disease continues to be under recognized.

On October 2, 2017, the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR®) convened interdisciplinary thought leaders at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health for a panel discussion that included patients, practitioners, and the employer perspective.

“Only a fraction of individuals with migraine are appropriately diagnosed and treated,” explained panelist Jelena Pavlovic, MD, PhD, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Patient advocate, Katie Golden, who experienced her first migraine when she was five years old, said she was lucky because her parents took her complaints seriously. However, her chronic migraine still resulted in her becoming disabled at age 30, causing her to drastically alter her career plans.

Despite migraine’s high prevalence, more education and deeper knowledge within the medical community is needed. The number of headache specialists in the U.S. is lacking significantly, said Dr. Pavlovic, with approximately one headache specialist for every 90,000 Americans with migraine. Five states currently have none.

The economic burden of migraine is staggering. In the U.S. alone, 113 million workdays are lost to migraine each year, costing employers more than 13 billion dollars. The costs of treating chronic migraine rise substantially when patients have one or more additional chronic conditions. Katy Spangler, senior vice president of the American Benefits Council, highlighted the role of emerging health policy concepts, such as value-based insurance design (VBID) that encourages patient utilization of high value services to drive better health and reduce costs. Spangler encouraged the migraine community to engage in benefit design and cost issues. “Let’s do a better job upfront, so people are healthier and happier, they’re more productive, and [everyone involved is] saving money.”

The public forum represents an expansion of SWHR’s successful scientific work, and enables additional, broader issues on migraine to be addressed. “SWHR looks forward to continuing to bring attention to these issues through the formation of a multi-year Migraine Network beginning this fall,” said SWHR President and CEO Amy Miller, PhD.

The goals of the future Migraine Network are to raise public awareness, change the perception of migraine, and to coordinate the diverse advocacy community with the intention of providing patients with tools to improve their healthcare. Furthermore, it will engage coverage, payment, and access policies. Such goals will be done through tangible educational materials, public forums, coalition building, publications, and advocacy activities.

SWHR is grateful for the support of the sponsors who made Migraines Matter: Beyond Burden to Value possible: Amgen, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and The Allergan Foundation.