Migraine: up to eight months’ headache days a year


woman sick in bed with headache

Migraine costs sufferers and their families more than $2.2 billion of health systems costs every year

A new report has estimated, for the first time, the economic burden caused by migraine: both to people with migraine and the wider economy.

Migraines affect 4.9 million Australians, says the Migraine in Australia whitepaper, prepared by Deloitte Access Economics for Novartis.

Migraine costs the Australian economy $35.7 billion every year, the report found: $14.3 billion of health system costs, $16.3 billion of productivity costs, and $5.1 billion of other costs.

People with migraine and their families bear more than $2.2 billion of health system costs each year.

Up to 28% of people with migraine present to emergency departments at least once over three months; each of these admissions costs, on average, $3000 or more, not including costs such as primary care, specialist visits and pharmaceuticals.

Both absenteeism and presenteeism – limited productivity at work – can cause people to lose up to 30 productive working days a year.

Caring for people with migraine costs friends and family up to $83 million a year, based on personal time caring as well as foregone earnings from time spent not at work.

Lynne Pezzullo, Lead Partner, Health Economics and Social Policy, Deloitte Access Economics, said the report findings clearly indicate the cascading financial burden that migraine places on individuals, employers, society and government.

“We have uncovered a substantial economic burden, largely made up of $16.3 billion of productivity costs and $14.3 billion health system costs,” she said.

“Alarmingly, the annual economic cost for each individual person with migraine can reach up to $27,803,” she said.

The report also found that:

  • Migraine attacks affect nearly a third of women – 28.7% – who are twice as likely as men to suffer from the condition (28.7% versus 11.7% respectively).
  • Most people with migraine (86%) are of working age, up to 65 years. Those aged 30 to 44 experience migraine the most.
  • Some people with migraine suffer up to eight months of headache days within one year.
  • People with migraine are resorting to hospital care, and hospital admissions and emergency department presentations together make up the largest portion of total migraine health system expenditure ($6.8 billion).
  • People with migraine who go to work and experience reduced productivity (presenteeism) are associated with higher productivity costs than taking time off work altogether ($4.6 billion vs. $4.2 billion for absenteeism).

As for pharmaceutical costs, these were difficult to quantify due to the fact that the range of accepted treatments includes OTC medications, as well as the fact that some prescription medications do not have a migraine specific indication.

Pharmaceutical costs were estimated using Canadian data, due to similarities between the two systems.

“Estimates of annual per person pharmaceutical expenditure on migraine in Canada were inflated to 2018 prices and converted to Australian dollars,” the report says.

“Per person, pharmaceutical expenditure was estimated to be $331 per year for episodic migraine and $992 per year for chronic migraine.

“This includes over-the-counter medicines, simple analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), triptans, antidepressants, anti-epileptics and cardiovascular medicines.”

Carol Bennett, CEO of Painaustralia, said that “Untreated migraine can bring an otherwise healthy individual to their knees, severely reducing their quality of life”.

“It’s staggering to learn people with migraine could have up to eight months of headache days within a one-year period, which must have huge ramifications on their lives overall.”

The whitepaper can be accessed here.

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