Headache on the Hill
Feb.23-7, 2009 The Second annual Headache on the Hill event occurred and was deemed successful. Thirty-five headache specialists, researchers, and headache bloggers met to ask Congress for additional NIH funding for headache and migraine research. Although the event was planned well in advance, the timing of this lobbying effort turned out to be ideal. Through the efforts of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), an amendment was passed to increase the proposed NIH funding in the stimulus package from $3.5 billion to $10 billion.
Headache on the Hill attendees, in addition to thanking their members of Congress for passing the stimulus package, asked for specific language to direct some of this increased NIH funding toward headache and migraine research, which has historically been terribly underfunded.
The National Institutes of Health expends approximately $13 billion annually on headache research, which represents 0.05% of its total research budget. There is no NIH center, institute, or standing study section focusing on pain, let alone headache disorders. Yet, migraine headache alone accounts for more than 1% of all disability in the US, and is the most commonly occurring neurologic disorder.1
NIH funding per person with headache compared to other chronic disorders speaks even more starkly. Individuals with Parkinson's disease receive $372 per capita; those with MS receive $280 per capita. Those with asthma receive $12.25 apiece in research dollars, and diabetics receive $48.57. Persons affected with migraine are allotted $0.36 in research dollars.1
Based on the funding of other chronic conditions, research for migraine and other headache disorders is underfunded by a factor of ten-fold. While achieving an increase of this magnitude in one attempt is unlikely, providing an increased focus on headache disorders makes an excellent start toward this worthy endeavor. Headache on the Hill attendees also asked their Senators and Representatives to sponsor the National Pain Care Act.
1. Schwedt, TJ, Shapiro, RE, Funding of Research on Headache Disorders by the National Institutes of Health, Headache, 2009, 49(2):162-169