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Cephalalgia. 2018 Apr;38(5):876-882. doi: 10.1177/0333102417716933. Epub 2017 Jun 26.

Do racial/ethnic disparities exist in recommended migraine treatments in US ambulatory care?

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Department of Neurology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.


Background Racial disparities in migraine have been reported in the US. Migraine in African Americans (AA) is more frequent, more severe, more likely to become chronic and associated with more depression and lower quality of life compared to non-Hispanic Whites (NHW). It is possible that racial differences in prescribing practices contribute to these differences, but little is known about the quality of migraine prescribing patterns in the US or whether racial differences exist. Objective To determine if racial differences in quality of migraine medical prescription care exist. Methods We used data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to estimate differences in the use of migraine prophylactic and abortive medications by race. Quality of migraine care was defined using the American Academy of Neurology Headache Quality Measure Set (AAN-HQMS). Patients were assigned to one of four categories representing the overall quality of evidence for their abortive and prophylactic medications using the AAN-HQMS. We hypothesized that there would be suboptimal migraine treatment in minority populations. Racial comparisons were made using descriptive statistics after applying NAMCS survey weights. Results Two thousand, eight hundred and sixty visits were included in the study, representing approximately 50 million migraine visits in the US from 2006-2013. In all, 41.3% of AA, 40.8% of NHW, and 41.2% of Hispanic (HI) patients received no prophylactic treatments ( p = 0.99). A total of 18.8% of AA patients, 11.9% of NHW patients, and 6.9% of HI patients received exclusively Level A prophylaxis ( p = 0.30). A total of 47.1% of AA patients, 38.2% of NHW patients, and 36.3% of HI patients received no abortive treatments ( p = 0.23). In total, 15.3% of AA patients, 19.4% of NHW patients, and 17.7% of HI patients received any Level A abortives (i.e. triptans or Dihydroergotamine; DHE, p = 0.64). A total of 15.2% of all patients had a prescription for opiates, but there were no racial differences. Conclusions Migraine may be undertreated with prophylactic medications. Level A acute analgesics may be underused and opiates overused. No major racial/ethnic differences in abortive or prophylactic treatment were identified.


Headache; disparities; medical care; opiates; quality; race

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