Saturday, June 09, 2007

insurance company limits hinder treatment for migraines


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A new study presented at an American Headache Society meeting this past week highlights the complicated dance migraineurs find themselves choreographing when their insurance limits the number of doses of acute treatment medication they can receive in a given time period.

Insurance Limits, Costs Keep Migraine Patients From Meds
"They're in a quandary, because they figure if it's not a migraine, they don't want to 'waste' a pill. But research shows that if people think it's a migraine, they're almost always right," Nicholson said.
The study included 233 migraine sufferers who took triptan drugs to treat their migraines. Of those patients, 42 percent said their insurance plan restricted the number of triptan doses covered per month, and 37 percent said they had not bothered to fill a triptan prescription because of the cost.
Only 49 percent of patients with insurance limitations said they took a triptan at the first sign of migraine, compared to 79 percent who had no limitations on their migraine drugs.
The study also found that 79 percent of patients who waited to take pain medication said migraines had a severe negative impact on their quality of life, compared to 51 percent who took their medication at the first sign of a migraine.

Two main thoughts come to mind.

First, this truly is a problem experienced by anyone who has more than a couple of migraines a month. My insurance covers two doses of Imitrex STATdose (injections) each month. I typically have much more than 2 migraines in a month's time, so this allotment does not come close to covering my needs. Therefore, I find myself playing the, "How bad is this migraine?" and "Is this really a migraine?" game with myself in trying to decide when to use my two doses.

Secondly, unlimited access is probably not a good thing, either. As most of you probably already know, medication overuse headache (aka rebound headache) is a serious problem for migraineurs, and overuse of acute treatment medications is a major culprit. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of medication overuse headache, you can read more about it here: medication overuse headache.

The best scenario would be a compromise that gives migraineurs access to six to eight doses of their treatment medications. This would strike the appropriate balance between making a treatment available whenever the patient needs it and not giving the patient access to so many doses that he or she is tempted to overuse the medication.

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