NEW YORK, NY -- February 22, 2000 -- Results from the American
Migraine Study II show that patient treatment patterns have not kept pace
with major scientific breakthroughs in the field. Unfortunately, despite a
better understanding of the disease and medications designed specifically for
the treatment of migraine, many patients continue to experience needless
pain and disability.
The study examines 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 percent of sufferers who
have received a diagnosis from a doctor suffer to a similar degree as those
who have never had their migraines diagnosed. This shows that effective
control of migraine is dependent not only on diagnosis but on the treatment
received once in the physician's care.
The study was conducted for the National Headache Foundation (NHF)
and underwritten by a grant from Glaxo Wellcome Inc. Results from the
study were released at the 13th Annual Conference of the Diamond
Headache Clinic Research and Education Foundation, held in Palm Springs,
In response to these dramatic results, the National Headache Foundation
convened a meeting of professional and consumer medical organizations.
The groups are now calling for a renewed commitment to the diagnosis and
treatment of migraine from healthcare professionals and better education of
"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," says Suzanne Simons, executive director of the NHF.
In the survey, subjects answered a series of questions about their diagnosis
and treatment history and the impact of migraine on their lives. The sample
was determined to be representative of the U.S. population in terms of
household income, ethnicity, family size and other factors. The study
examines the current state of migraine care in the U.S. It updates a
methodologically identical study by the same research team conducted 10
years ago and published in the Journal of the American Medical
Among key findings of the research were:
-- Total U.S. migraine prevalence was virtually the same in 1999 (12.6
percent) as in 1989 (12.1 percent) - current incidence (28 million) has
increased since 1989 (24 million) with the growth in population.
-- Only 48 percent of respondents who met the clinical definition of migraine
report ever having had their condition diagnosed by a physician.
-- 80 percent said their migraine headaches were severe or extremely
severe, and 24 percent reported seeking emergency room care as a result of
-- Despite significant advances in prescription medications designed
specifically to treat migraine, 57 percent of migraine headache sufferers
report still using only over-the-counter (OTC) medications for treatment,
virtually the same percentage as 10 years ago (59 percent).
-- 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:
-- Throbbing pain (85 percent diagnosed vs. 85 percent undiagnosed)
-- Sensitivity to light (89 percent diagnosed vs. 72 percent undiagnosed)
-- Pain on one side of the head (64 percent diagnosed vs. 55 percent
-- Nausea (80 percent diagnosed vs. 66 percent undiagnosed)
The new data show that one in every four U.S. households has a migraine
sufferer. This is 13 percent of the American population. 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 percent or more reduction in work and/or school
productivity and 66 percent said they experienced a 50 percent or more
reduction in housework productivity. Thirty-nine percent of patients report
migraine pain so severe they are driven to their beds -- sometimes for days
at a time.
"In the past, narcotic medications were widely used for migraine. Narcotics
relieve pain, but often produce disabling sedation. The new generation of
medicines, known as triptans, relieve pain and restore people's ability to
function, allowing people to get back to their lives," says Richard B. Lipton,
M.D., Professor of Neurology, Epidemiology and Social Medicine, at
Albert Einstein College of Medicine and lead researcher of the study.
Another study of the life-impact issues surrounding migraine conducted
the National Headache Foundation, underwritten by a grant from Glaxo
Wellcome Inc. and released in June 1999, found that when migraine
sufferers have their condition effectively treated, they report a significant
improvement in their work, family and social lives. Additionally, that study
revealed that users of migraine prescription medication, particularly triptans,
report a high level of satisfaction with their overall treatment program.
"People with migraine headaches must see their doctors regularly," says
Simons. "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.
People need to become more proactive and champion their own health."
Of the 20,000 households targeted for the study, 13,869 households
responded and returned their questionnaires (69 percent response rate).
These households contained 29,258 individuals aged 12 and older; of these,
6,211 (21 percent) were severe headache sufferers and 3,738 (12 percent)
had migraine as defined by established International Headache Society
(1) Stewart, Lipton, et al. "Journal of the American Medical Association",
1992, vol. 267, No. 1, pages 64-69.