Hitting a Nerve

The migraine-go-round


Any other docs out there have patients on what I call the migraine-go-round?

I first discovered this ride when I started in practice, though back then it was with triptans. You know the game, you’d start someone on one drug because you had samples, or a coupon, or both. A few months later the coupon had run out, and their insurance wouldn’t cover it, so you’d move them to another drug. Maxalt to Imitrex to Zomig to Relpax to Axert to Maxalt.

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

The ride continued until the majority had gone generic, and I’d almost forgotten about it. You can’t do it with seizure patients or Parkinson’s disease.

But with the advent of the CGRP era, it seems to have started again. Coverage coupons have a limited number of refills, or the deal changes, or a pharmacy stops taking them, or an insurance company changes their mind, or whatever. So we go from Aimovig to Emgality to Qulipta to Ajovy to Nurtec to Aimovig (not necessarily in that order).

It’s annoying (not just for the patients, but for me and my staff as we try to keep up with it), and obviously it doesn’t work for everyone because each patient responds differently. But, if it works, it at least gets some degree of coverage until an insurance company finally approves a given drug for that person. And even then a patient’s own financial circumstances or changing job situation can keep things spinning.

When you finally step off the ride you have to pore back through the chart to figure out which, if any, worked best, or had side effects, or whatever.

A good part of modern medicine is adapting to these sorts of things. Patient care isn’t always as simple as “take this and call me in the morning.” Sometimes we have to play the game to get things done.

The trick is learning the rules on the fly – for all involved.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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