Conference Coverage

A large proportion of migraine patients are not offered preventive treatment



Few patients with migraine receive or are offered preventive therapy, leaving a significant treatment gap in this patient population, new research suggests. Investigators found that among patients with migraine who are eligible for preventive therapy, more than a third were not offered this option. In addition, fewer than 10% were currently taking preventive medication, and an additional 10% had discontinued preventive therapy.

Stephanie J. Nahas, MD, director of the headache medicine fellowship program, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia

Dr. Stephanie J. Nahas

“We confirmed that as of 2012 to 2013 – the years these data were collected from a large, comprehensive survey – gaps in care remained,” said study investigator Stephanie J. Nahas, MD, director of the headache medicine fellowship program, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia. “In this preventive-eligible population, 35% reported never even being offered preventive medication.”

Furthermore, only 28% of patients taking preventive medication experienced a reduction in headache frequency to less than 4 days per month, which is a primary goal of treatment, said Dr. Nahas. Disease burden, as measured with scales of disability and affective comorbidities, remained substantial.

The findings were presented at the American Headache Society’s 2021 annual meeting.

Lack of efficacy?

In 2019, the American Headache Society published a position statement recommending that preventive treatment be considered for patients who have migraine and four or more monthly headache days (MHDs), regardless of their level of associated disability. However, previous data suggest few patients who are eligible for preventive treatment receive it. In addition, many who have used preventive medications do not adhere to their regimens because of problems with tolerability, efficacy, or both.

To identify treatment gaps and characterize self-reported use of preventive medications for migraine, the investigators examined data from the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) study, a web-based survey conducted in a representative U.S. sample from September 2012 through November 2013.

The survey identified and characterized patients who met modified criteria for migraine consistent with those in ICHD-3. The researchers classified respondents who had migraine and four or more MHDs as potentially eligible for migraine preventive treatment.

The investigators assessed the study population’s use of oral preventive medications, migraine-related disability and burden, willingness to take preventive treatment, and reasons for discontinuation.

Assessments included the Migraine Disability Assessment Questionnaire, the Patient Health Questionnaire–9 for depression, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-Item Scale, the Migraine Specific Quality of Life questionnaire, and the Migraine Symptom Severity Scale.

In all, 16,789 respondents met criteria for migraine, and 6,579 (39.2%) reported having at least four MHDs. The median age of this subgroup that was eligible for preventive treatment was 40.3 years, and approximately 79% were women.

Only 9.8% of respondents who were eligible for preventive medications were currently using an oral preventive medication. Among those who had ever tried an oral preventive medication, 53.6% discontinued it. Efficacy for patients who used medications appeared to be inadequate. Among all current users of preventive treatment, 68.4% continued to have at least four MHDs.

The researchers assessed treatment eligibility among patients not taking preventive medication. Among respondents who had never used a preventive treatment, 35.7% were eligible to receive it. Among all users who had discontinued preventive medication, 61.0% were still eligible to receive it.


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