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Wenzel R, Dortch M, Cady R, Loland JH, Diamond S. Migraine headache misconceptions: barriers to effective care. Pharmacotherapy. 2004;24:638-648.

Migraine headaches affect 12% of the adult population in the United States and cause a significant economic loss due to decreased workplace productivity. Although interactions between pharmacists and individuals with headache are common, few pharmacists receive adequate training regarding migraine therapy. We refute several misconceptions that hinder effective care, such as that migraine is a vascular disease, triptans cause rampant cardiac-related morbidity and even mortality, a best oral triptan exists, sinus and tension headaches are prevalent, and migraine is a minor economic problem. Our pathophysiologic understanding demonstrates that migraine is a neurologic process of the trigeminovascular system, of which vascular effects are secondary. This process can result in a myriad of clinical signs and symptoms, often leading to a misdiagnosis of sinus or tension headache. The last decade's experience with triptans in more than half a billion people worldwide reveals a benign adverse-effect profile, particularly when taken early in an attack. Published reports and real-world experiences illustrate that these drugs do not merit fears of triptan-induced cardiac consequences in appropriately selected individuals. Society's productivity loss due to migraine is measured in billions of dollars. Restoring a patient's ability to function normally is now recognized as the primary treatment goal, not merely relieving pain. Thus, the overreliance on “pain killer” drugs such as butalbital-containing products and the continued underutilization of migraine-specific drugs need to be addressed. Opportunities exist for pharmacists and other health care providers to dispel continually propagated migraine misconceptions and familiarize themselves with advances in therapy. Such actions will benefit patients, the health care system, and society as a whole.

Comment: This is a marvelous review for residents and primary care practitioners.—Stewart J. Tepper

This is a thought provoking article which deserves to be widely discussed. It contains many home truths which should have considerable impact for health care practitioners and will provide useful ammunition for patient groups and headache physicians battling to access resources for headache patients. We reached similar conclusions following our U.K. population survey of headache treatment and health care utilization. Undoubtedly, pharmacists and other health care professionals can act as important conduits to facilitate the prompt effective treatment of headache.—David S. Millson
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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