University of Vermont

University Communications

Shapiro To Lead First Headache Research Advocacy Event

Release Date: 09-19-2007

Author: Jennifer Nachbur
Phone: 802/656-7875 Fax: 802-656-3961

More than 45 headache experts from 27 states converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Sept. 26 to meet with legislators to increase awareness of the crucial need for additional funding for research into migraine and other disabling headache disorders. Called “Headache on the Hill,” this first-time event was co-developed and coordinated by Robert Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and director of the Headache Clinic at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt.

The current annual National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for migraine research is about $13 million, comprising less than 0.05 percent of the total NIH budget. In contrast, a whopping $20 billion worth of work is lost each year in the United States due to headaches or the one percent of all U.S. disability that is caused specifically by migraine alone.

The American Headache Society reports that each year, more than $1 billion is spent on over-the-counter headache medications in the U.S. The seventh leading reason for U.S. outpatient physician visits, headaches have a myriad of causes, including life-threatening disorders such as brain tumor and stroke, as well as minor infections, hangovers and fasting. An estimated 36 million Americans have actual migraine, a painful and often disabling headache disorder consisting of one sided, throbbing pain associated with sensitivity to light, sound, nausea and vomiting.

“Headache disorders, including migraine, are now established as among the top ten causes of disability world-wide,” said Shapiro. “They cause a staggering amount of suffering, medical costs, and lost work. Much more research is required to understand and ultimately find effective treatments for these painful, disabling conditions. Legislators need to be aware of how this issue is affecting the 36 million Americans with migraine, their families and their employers.”

Twelve headache-related national and international organizations supported Headache on the Hill, including the American Headache Society, American Academy of Neurology, National Headache Foundation, World Health Organization, Headache Cooperative of New England, MAGNUM/National Migraine Association, Migraine and Pain Fund, World Headache Alliance, European Brain Council, European Headache Federation, Migraine Trust, and British Association for the Study of Headache.