Can art imitate migraine? Allergan campaign asks sufferers to visualize symptoms

What would a migraine headache look like as art? That’s what Allergan is asking sufferers in a new campaign for chronic migraine awareness.

Called “Frames of Mind,” the effort asks people coping with migraines to create artwork that visually depicts how the symptoms affect them physically and emotionally, to spread awareness about the often crippling symptoms of the disease.

Aspiring or working artists who identify as migraine sufferers can submit high resolution digital photos of their work by email. Some of the submissions will then be selected for display at the upcoming annual American Headache Society meeting in Boston in June, as well as on Allergan’s Chronic Migraine Facebook page.

Allergan is also partnering with the American Migraine Foundation and other advocacy groups to get the word out via public relations efforts and social media posts.

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“If you know someone who suffers from migraines, you know what it is they go through, whether that’s brutally throbbing pain or sensitivity to light or other symptoms that really shut these patients down. But there are still far too many people that don’t know,” Marc Forth, Allergan’s senior VP of neurosciences and urology in the U.S., said in an interview.

Some 30 million to 35 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines, with one-tenth of them—more than 3 million—classified as chronic sufferers with, 15 or more headaches that last as long as four hours each per month.

Allergan's Botox has been indicated for the treatment of chronic migraines since 2010, and the art submission project is only the latest in ongoing promotional efforts for patients, caregivers, providers and payers.

“It’s a great opportunity to get patients engaged. We’ve never really had a way for them to participate so actively in a campaign like this,” Forth said.

The migraine treatment category, estimated at up to $8 billion in annual sales, includes both prescription and OTC remedies. On the prescription side, along with Botox, Allergan is readying a CGRP migraine drug it bought from Merck in 2015, as well as a second investigational treatment. However, it's not alone, with competition in the form of similar new treatments from Amgen and partner Novartis, Teva, Eli Lilly and Alder Biopharmaceuticals also on the horizon.