Despite opioids typically being reserved for limited or highly specific uses and not a treatment of choice for migraine, results from OVERCOME demonstrated that a high number of people are using opioids to treat their migraine. These findings suggest that the real-world treatment of migraine is falling short of current scientific understanding of how to optimally treat this serious and disabling neurologic disease.
“The data from OVERCOME showed that, overall, opioids are being used in place of medicines that are approved and indicated to treat migraine, particularly among those who experience migraine headaches more frequently,” said Sait Ashina, M.D., Department of Neurology and Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA. “These data show that, despite the known potential risks of using opioids for migraine, far too many continue to do so. Against the backdrop of the U.S. opioid epidemic, it’s concerning that many people may be using these drugs in place of therapies indicated for migraine.”
The seminal 2009 American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study demonstrated that 16 percent of people with migraine were currently using opioids at the time of the study. Data from OVERCOME collected in 2018 showed 19 percent of people with migraine were currently using opioids specifically to treat migraine. This could represent a potential increase of tens of thousands of adults using opioids for migraine compared to the previous decade.1,2Furthermore, among OVERCOME participants who reported four or more migraine headaches per month, nearly 1 in 4 were currently using opioids (23.9%) and more than 50 percent of people in this group reported using opioids at some point to treat their migraine.
“While diagnosis and treatment in migraine has significantly improved during the past decade or so, it’s clear that for many, sub-optimal care is still a reality,” said Dr. Eric Pearlman, senior medical director, U.S. neuroscience, Eli Lilly and Co. “Considering the social, economic and health consequences of both migraine and opioid use, now is the time to close the treatment gap that has existed for too long. It’s vital those living with this chronic, neurological disease are aware of and being counseled on appropriate treatment options for their migraine.”
Lilly supports the efforts of organizations such as the American Headache Society, the American Migraine Foundation, the Migraine Research Foundation and the National Headache Foundation, among others, to promote scientific education that may lead to better outcomes for people affected by migraine. Raising awareness throughout the entire care continuum – from healthcare providers to patients and their caregivers – is vital to the holistic care and management of migraine.