Why support migraine research?
Migraine is an exceedingly common disorder that causes substantial pain, disability and societal burden. Unfortunately, most of the biology that causes migraine is poorly understood. Many treatments are insufficient, inadequate, or associated with significant risks, such as overuse, abuse or addiction. Ongoing funding is needed to support migraine research and educational efforts are needed to further improve the quality of care of those with headache.
What do we know about migraine?
Recent studies show that migraine is associated with a change in communication (excitation) of cells in the brain compared to those individuals without migraine. However, why and how a migraine headache starts remains a mystery. We do know that once a migraine starts, there is activation of the pain fibers around the tissue (dura) that surrounds the outside of the brain. We also know that there is clear activation of the trigeminal nerve (shown in yellow), and is responsible for relaying pain information from the head and face, to the brainstem region. From the brainstem, pain information travels to the higher brains centers such as the thalamus then on up to the cortex.
Limitations with current therapies
Currently, there is no cure for migraine. Treatments are aimed at reducing headache frequency and stopping individual headaches when they occur. Some of these therapies used to stop the pain can be overused or abused, leading to further deterioration of their headache condition. Prophylactic treatments reduce headache frequency by approximately 1/2 in only about 40% of patients who take these medications. Many of these medications are associated with side effects, which limits their use. Because of these limitations regarding headache treatments, ongoing research is needed to further understand the biology and genetics behind the disease so treatments can be specifically targeted to treat each patient’s headache condition. Additional funding is also needed to further explore new therapeutic options that may work in patients who do not respond or cannot take currently available migraine medications.
Current State of Funding in Migraine
Migraine research receives very little funding. This is true when considering the total amount of funding and funding adjusted for migraine prevalence, disability caused by migraine and the societal costs from migraine. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the major source of governmental research funding in the United States. The NIH allocates only 0.012% of its research budget to headache research.
In 2013 the NIH granted only $19 million for migraine research. Diabetes received $1,007 million in 2013. Asthma received $207 million in 2013.
The amount of funding that the NIH spent on migraine research in 2007 is equal to only $0.36 per person with migraine. Diabetes received $49.38 per person with diabetes. Asthma received $12.25 per person with asthma.