Insurance companies, governments, and in the end – we the migraine patients – spend a LOT of money on treatment. And it’s those who are suffering the most, and who are the most disabled, who are going to have the highest expenses.
Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe from Emory University in Atlanta, USA, recently put together a paper showing a different perspective on the cost of migraine in society.
Very often we look at the cost of migraine treatment as an individual thing – days lost to migraine, medications taken, time in the hospital, due to migraine . . .
But this overlooks something very important – migraine does not always come alone. There are a number of other diseases and disorders that tend to come along with migraine. These are known as “comorbid” conditions.
Here’s an example from Dr. Thorpe’s paper, using USA stats only. In 2015, about $5.4 billion dollars were spent in the USA for treating chronic migraine (yes, that’s only chronic migraine – this does not include all the other types of migraine, never mind related headache disorders). 5.4 billion!
Now, what does it cost for chronic migraine + comorbid conditions? Over $40 billion.
Wow. Just taking the 5.4 billion per year – let’s cure migraine and use the money to solve world hunger! (Ok, I’m being simplistic – but seriously, there are things we could do with 5.4 billion…)
So what are these comorbid conditions? Some of the top ones included mental and mood disorders, arthritis, hypertension and heart disease.
As disability increased, so did the cost. And disability was worse with more comorbid conditions (remember, many chronic migraine sufferers have several comorbid conditions).
Dr. Thorpe made the important observation that we really do need to treat the “whole person”. It may be easy to give someone with a “headache” a “pill”, but migraine patients need treatment that takes into consideration other conditions and their own health risks and medical history.
For us as patients, we need to be aware of other conditions and symptoms that we may forget about because we’re focused on the PAIN of migraine.
Dr. Dawn C. Buse offers this note for her fellow doctors and specialists:
In general, people with more comorbid conditions use greater health care resources including medical appointments, hospitalizations, medications, and even phone calls to providers. Comorbidities are more common in chronic migraine. They make treatment more complicated and are associated with worse outcomes. I recommend that all providers screen for common comorbidities and treat or refer as appropriate.
In other words, doctors should be aware of the possible comorbid conditions, and should think about treatments that can help the whole person.
Read more details from NeurologyAdvisor: Comorbidities Have a Significant Impact on Chronic Migraine Health Care Costs