Novartis finds employer support matters when treating migraines

Novartis headquarters
Novartis' study of employees with migraines shows support programs cut productivity loss and improve self-care skills. (Novartis)

Novartis may comarket migraine drug Aimovig, but it's also showing that going beyond the pill can help those disabled by migraines.

In the final readout of its study on the impact of migraines at work, Novartis found that people enrolled in workplace support programs saw their migraine disability reduced by more than 50% over six months.

The latest, and last, phase of the migraine study followed Novartis employees who have a confirmed migraine diagnosis and agreed to opt into the analysis.

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Seventy-nine employees completed the six-month program, which included participation in monthly tele-coaching sessions with nurses and tracking through a customized Migraine Buddy smartphone app. At the end the program, 54% reported a decrease in migraine-related disability. Loss of productivity at work was also reduced by more than 50%, and it carried over into the patient employees’ personal lives, with many reporting that their private lives were “significantly less impaired by migraine.”

RELATED: Novartis study validates need for better migraine treatment, as Novartis-Amgen drug hits market

Novartis’ initial “My Migraine Voice” study of 11,000 working migraine sufferers found that 60% missed almost one week (4.6 days) of work every month due to migraine. However, it also found that in the U.S., while the majority of employers (80%) knew about their employees' migraines, only 21% offered support. Those findings spurred the Novartis Migraine Care employee pilot program with the specialized version of the Migraine Buddy app offering nurse coaching and support.

Another measure of the program's success was the increase in patient confidence over the course of the study. Novartis saw an increase of 9% in patient activation measure (PAM), a common measurement used in studies to gauge patient knowledge, skill and confidence for self-management.

“The study confirms the high burden of people living and working with migraine but also demonstrates that empowering individuals can significantly increase quality of life and productivity”, said Andreas Gantenbein, M.D., Ph.D, head of the Swiss Headache Society, which partnered with Novartis on the effort. “This further emphasizes the notion that employer-led well-being programs can benefit individuals, companies and society as a whole.”

RELATED: Novartis, Amgen tout Aimovig's benefits with real-world and long-term data

Post study, Novartis is now "exploring opportunities to work with other employers who are interested in supporting their employees and family members living with migraine," a Novartis spokesperson said in an email.

Novartis and Amgen comarket anti-CGRP migraine treatment Aimovig, which launched in 2018. Sales totaled $306 million in 2019, and reached $70 million in Q1 of 2020, marking a 20% increase year-over-year. The first-in-class Aimovig still leads the CGRP treatment category sales-wise, topping Eli Lilly's Emgality and Teva's Ajovy, but competitors' surging sales have narrowed the gap.

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