My passion and curiosity to better understand primary headache disorders began because somebody very close to me—my mother—suffers from migraine. Once, a migraine attack was so intense and frightening that she was afraid she was having a stroke. And, sadly, she’s not alone in that. More than 36 million Americans suffer from migraine, but it primarily affects women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. For these women, this is often a critical time to focus on their careers, their family commitments or quite often both.
Understanding the magnitude of the barriers and interruptions that both migraine and cluster headache cause is the reason I’ve devoted my career to this field of work. Unfortunately, the impact of these diseases is too often underestimated. Some people experience attacks more than four times a month and are forced to miss work, family activities or social engagements. This can mean 50 days of lost productivity in a year, a loss that is not only detrimental to people’s well-being, but it’s also extremely costly.
After witnessing my mother’s experience with migraine firsthand, I moved to the U.S. to pursue research opportunities that weren’t available to me in India. During my second year as a neurology resident, I started working on clinical research with the goal of reducing this immense burden and helping the general public better understand the significance of primary headache disorders.
Thinking back to that time, I never would have imagined we would have come this far in understanding primary headache disorders. Last week, in fact, I attended the American Headache Society’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco, where researchers across the country shared new research that will help us better understand headache disorders, and the latest innovations underway across the industry.
It is amazing to see the progress the scientific community and our researchers here at Lilly have made over the last 20 years. In this time, researchers have identified and developed investigational treatments that specifically target calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) molecule that we can specific target when developing new medicines. This is an enormous, and life-changing, step forward.
Despite this breakthrough, there continues to be a significant unmet need for people with primary headache disorders. Take cluster headache, for instance. Currently there are no preventive medications approved to prevent cluster headache, which is known as one of the most painful conditions you can experience. But research to identify new options is underway, including at Lilly.
Treatment for migraine and cluster headache is not a “one size fits all” approach, and it is important that people living with these diseases have choice when it comes to treatment. Now is truly an exciting time for both physicians and patients, as well as Lilly researchers, who have worked tirelessly for more than two decades researching new treatment options to help minimize these burdens.
I fight for a day without migraine or cluster headache attacks, when people living with these diseases have a chance at better days and fewer missed moments with the people they love most.