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Chronic migraine is seldom a lone condition, explains a new white paper from the Headache & Migraine Policy Forum.  And when chronic migraine patients suffer from common comorbidities such as depression or hypertension, their medical costs rise while their productivity suffers.

Authored by former Department of Health and Human Services official Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D., the paper is entitled “Prevalence, Health Care Spending and Comorbidities Associated with Chronic Migraine Patients.” It captures analysis of 2008-2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, which are conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Key findings include:

Prevalence. Chronic migraine sufferers are predominantly urban, white and female – working full time and living in the South.

Comorbidities. Nearly 90 percent of chronic migraine patients have at least one other chronic condition. The most common include depression and anxiety; hypertension; and arthritis.

Cost. The cost of treating patients with chronic migraine and additional chronic diseases is eight times higher than the cost of treating patients with only chronic migraine. Likewise, the cost of treating conditions such as arthritis, depression, anxiety and diabetes is higher if the patient being treated also suffers from chronic migraine.

Productivity. More than 20 percent of chronic migraine sufferers are disabled.  That figure rises as the number of comorbid conditions increases.

The paper argues that these findings justify “whole-person care,” a point that Dr. Thorpe reiterated at Tuesday’s Capitol Hill policy forum sponsored by the Headache & Migraine Policy Forum. “If you’re really treating these conditions simultaneously and interactively,” Dr. Thorpe explained, “you’re going to get better outcomes across the board.”  The approach could yield “substantial health dividends,” the paper notes.

The Headache & Migraine Policy Forum advances public policies that promote accelerated innovation and improved treatments for headache and migraine sufferers.

The event coincided with the 10th annual Headache on the Hill, an advocacy effort organized by the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. Headache on the Hill brings more than 125 health professionals, migraine advocates and patients to Capitol Hill to raise awareness about the impact of headache and migraine disorders and to seek increased research funding.

Read the full paper here or review key findings in the Headache & Migraine Policy Forum’s new infographic.

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