Why is Headache Research Under-Funded?

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month.  And no, that doesn’t mean it’s the month for headache sufferers to vent to each other.  It means that there are good reasons why the public, governments, and health organizations need to be more aware of the drastic impact of headache conditions.

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a time for headache sufferers to “vent” – we need to know that someone is listening and we’re not alone.

Headache: A scandal of under-funding?

But the reality is that we could be doing more, as a society, to treat these serious conditions.  And awareness can start the process.

A recent article in USA Today highlighted some of the reasons why headache conditions such as migraine and cluster aren’t getting more attention.

Is Headache Research Under-Funded?

According to this article, there’s little doubt.  Even Dr. Linda Porter, pain policy adviser for the NIH (National Institutes of Health) admitted that more funding was needed.

Why the lack of funding?

Here are some of the reasons that this one article suggested (I’m expanding on some of them).

  1. People are afraid to admit that they have migraine disease:  Why would this be a problem?  Well, it’s obvious that it makes migraine seem like less of a problem.  But it becomes even more significant if someone in the government has migraine.  Negatively, it could impact their ability to get votes.  Positively, it could make them a powerful advocate to solve a worldwide serious disability.
  2. Social stigma:  This one is related to the first, of course.  The stigma, which the article points out extends even to the medical community, makes migraine, cluster, and other headache issues less of a priority than they should be.
  3. The economy:  Some reasons for a lack of funding may not be logical, but they’re the reality.  A simple reason is that the economy is not allowing for more money for anything.  And it’s not easy to take money from one project to put it into another.
  4. Few getting into headache research:  More researchers need to be working on headache.  Although somewhat of a vicious circle, if there were more people willing to devote themselves to this type of research, it would be easier to get funding.

The article reminds us again of some of the statistics when it comes to headache disorders.  An estimated 60 million Americans are affected by migraine, and speaking of economic impact alone this costs $30 billion a year.  Dr. Robert Shapiro also points out:

Cluster headache is a good case in point.  Cluster headache is widely regarded as the most severe pain a human can experience — that’s not hyperbole.  It has a population prevalence that’s approximately the same as multiple sclerosis.

However, NIH has directed $1.872 billion to multiple sclerosis research over 10 years, and $2 million to cluster research over 25 years!

Of course we don’t want to see money taken out of MS research.  But the difference between the funding of the two is a scandal.

Raising awareness is important, and everyone can have a part.  For ideas on how to be involved, check out these pages:

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2 comments… add one
  • Ellie Marie Moore Jun 12, 2013

    I generally don’t like the idea of pitting one group in need against another one, but when I saw the amount of funding going into diabetes research compared to migraine research I was disheartened. So many more of diabetes ill effects can be controlled with lifestyle choices and medication than those of migraine. Diabetes is also associated with agricultural policies (corn syrup, anyone?). It’s just not right or fair.

  • Jemo Jun 14, 2013

    I think the real reason has been missed. It’s hard to do medical research without money from Big Pharma, and it”s not in their interest to figure out something really effective for migraines, much less a cure. Better for them to rake in mega-bucks from costly meds that work for SOME people, SOME of the time.

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