Written by Catherine Charrett-Dykes
President and CEO
Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc.
There are currently numerous television commercial advertisements discussing medications that are available for various disease states. We have learned about erectile dysfunction, fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some commercials do more than inform the public there is help available, they educate people about their conditions. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the new drugs available to treat migraine and chronic migraine.
This is the first time in history that we have new preventative medications specifically designed to treat migraine called calcitonin gene-related peptides, or CGRPs. Now there are a host of commercials depicting people taking these medications and being migraine free. By taking them, “you’ll be able to be all you can be” and carry on with your day as if nothing happened. These commercials don’t talk about the myriad of symptoms that are part of a migraine attack. However, commercials for Lyrica and fibromyalgia, for example, describe what it is like for the person living with the disease. It details the widespread pain and then gives a visual demonstration of what the pain may feel like. On the other hand, commercials for the new CGRP drugs show women playing with their children. Where is the description of what it’s like to have a migraine attack? Where is the visual disturbance, the debilitating nausea, the stabbing feeling behind the eye, the knife like feeling in your head and creeping tension in their back and neck? Not to mention the constant nasal drip or sinus pain, feeling like you have the flu, or any of the other many symptoms that can accompany migraine attack?
The manufacturers have a wonderful opportunity to educate the public on the fact that a migraine attack is so much more than headache. By not including the multiple symptoms of a migraine attack, they are failing to hit the mark. They urge us to “ask our doctor” to find out if this medication is right for us, but how can we ask if we don’t know that what we are living with is disease? How can anyone understand what living with chronic migraine is like with these vague references or by showing women playing with their children.
More than once this year I had to explain to people close to me, who know that I’ve been living with chronic migraine for 16 years, that what they are experiencing may very well be a migraine attack. Despite seeing what I was going through and my advocacy work they still didn’t seem to have any concept of a migraine attack. Time and time again I heard, “it’s stress”, “it’s allergies or a sinus infection”; “it’s my teeth” “it’s just a headache”. Maybe it is all those things, but it may be a migraine attack too. These commercials show us that taking these new medications, gives us our life back. There is no explanation about what a migraine attack is, only that we may get our life back.
Migraine could be thought of like a canary in a coal mine. Our bodies are alerting us that something is wrong, however we’ve been taught to push through and ignore our symptoms and bodies. Having chronic migraine means having 15 or more migraine and/or headache days a month. We should be educating people about what a migraine attack is and isn’t before people become debilitated. It took me countless doctors to get an accurate diagnosis because I didn’t know how or what to relay to them what was significant. If the manufacturers would focus their commercials on migraine education in addition to the effectiveness of these medications, just think of the awareness it would create. Any migraine is too many; having a migraine attack every day shouldn’t be normal. The message that you have to “push” through migraine is an unfair statement that adds to the stigma that we are not doing enough.
* Disclaimer * This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding migraine and headache disease and all medical conditions.