Newswise — University of Vermont Professor of Neurology and migraine expert Robert Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., says U.S. Representative and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's public disclosure of her migraine condition has brought much-needed awareness to this disabling, often-stigmatized disorder, which afflicts millions of Americans.
Bachmann is not the only public figure known to suffer from migraine. Several distinguished U.S. presidents, including Ulysses Grant and possibly Thomas Jefferson, experienced severe migraine attacks during their terms in office.
Shapiro, who also directs the Headache Clinic at Fletcher Allen Health Care, serves as president of the board of directors of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and suffers from migraine himself, says that this year, nearly one in five Americans will experience some form of migraine attack, and one in 25 will have headaches lasting at least 15 days per month. A disorder marked by disabling attacks of severe one-sided, throbbing headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, migraine is often accompanied by nasal congestion, cloudy thinking, or nausea.
“Available migraine therapies are few in number and often limited in effectiveness and tolerability,” explains Shapiro. “Over the past 49 years, only one innovative drug, discovered and developed specifically for migraine treatment and given priority review by the FDA, has been approved for clinical use.”
However, breakthrough drugs are typically discovered by publicly-funded research investigators, rather than through pharmaceutical company laboratories. Shapiro shares that despite this fact, federally-funded migraine research totaled only $15 million in 2010.
The World Health Organization estimates that migraine is responsible for more lost years of healthy life in the U.S. than multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, ovarian cancer, and tuberculosis combined, yet these disorders received more than 45 times more research funding from the National Institutes of Health than migraine in 2010. The estimated annual migraine-associated costs in the U.S. -- $11 billion in direct healthcare costs and $20 billion in indirect costs related to missed work, reduced productivity, etc. -- totals $31 billion, according to several journal reports.