Migraine Costly to Workers and Employers

By Steve Weakley

Most employees who suffer from chronic migraine headaches miss nearly a full week of work (4.6 days) due to migraines each month, according to a large new online survey.

Amgen and Novartis surveyed over 11,000 migraine sufferers in 31 countries to demonstrate how painful and costly the condition can be for both workers and employers.  The My Migraine Voice survey included people who had four or more migraine days a month.

Eighty percent of the survey takers in the U.S. said their employers knew about their migraines, but only 21 percent said their bosses offered support and understanding. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said migraines impaired their work performance and many felt judged by co-workers as a result.

"From being afraid to speak up about their disease at work in fear of losing their jobs, to feeling judged by colleagues, the stigma around migraine in the workplace is an ongoing issue that the migraine community faces daily," said Mary Franklin, executive director of the National Headache Foundation, in a press release.

"The findings from the My Migraine Voice survey shed light on the true impact of migraine at work, and showcase the urgent need for employers and employees to change the dialogue around migraine."

According to one estimate, U.S. employers lose about $11 billion a year in missed work and lost productivity because of migraines.


Amgen and Novartis presented the survey findings at the 60th annual meeting of the American Headache Society in San Francisco, to help stir up interest in their new injectable migraine drug, Aimovig (erenumab). The FDA recently approved the monthly self-injected drug for the prevention of migraine in adults.

Aimovig uses human antibodies to target brain receptors that are thought to trigger migraines. Three clinical trials demonstrated that the drug reduced the number of migraine days for sufferers by an average of 2.5 days per month.

One obstacle in getting people to try Aimovig is its price. Amgen say the drug will cost about $6,900 a year, or $575 for each monthly dose. Amgen holds the sales rights for Aimovig in the United States, Canada and Japan, while Novartis will sell the drug in Europe and the rest of the world.

Amgen is offering a migraine management program to several large U.S. employers. The program consists of an educational program as well as a research study to document the impact of migraine on worker absenteeism, presenteeism, healthcare utilization and costs. The wellness portion of the program includes webinars, email and website tips, and a  mobile app to track migraine symptoms.