Norfolk hospital gives fresh hope to migraine sufferers after offering Botox treatment on the NHS
16:09 24 April 2014
Sufferers of chronic migraine have been given fresh hope after a Norfolk hospital became the first in the region to use Botox to treat patients on the NHS.
• Migraine is amongst the three most prevalent health conditions worldwide, along with anaemia and hearing loss.
• In the UK, there are an estimated 190,000 migraine attacks every day.
• Over half (54pc) of migraine sufferers experience one or more attacks per month, and 13pc claim one or more attacks per week.
• Women are more likely to have migraine attacks than men – 18pc of women and 8pc of men
• Just over a third (34.3pc) of migraine sufferers face difficulties or discrimination at work because of their condition.
• An estimated 25 million days are lost from work or school every year because of migraine.
• Severe migraine attacks are classified by the World Health Organisation as among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, quadriplegia and active psychosis.
• Depression is three times more common in people with migraine or severe headaches than in healthy individuals.
• Less than 50pc of migraine patients consult a physician.
A doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital spoke of his hope of curing some patients from their debilitating condition by injecting the commonly used beauty treatment into people’s heads and necks.
The King’s Lynn hospital received the go-ahead last year to begin using Botox to treat migraines after the medicines watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommended in 2012 that it can be used as a preventative treatment on the NHS.
Twenty patients from across Norfolk have already started a course of 31 Botox injections every three months, which is already beginning to see results, despite them not finishing the course of treatment, said Oliver Hendrie.
The speciality doctor in neurology is beginning to contact GPs across West Norfolk to inform them of the NHS treatment to help more patients who suffer from at least 15 headaches a month and who get no benefit from migraine preventative drugs.
The region’s migraine sufferers received another boost last month when the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital began offering the same treatment.
An estimated eight million people in Britain suffer from migraines. However, only around 1pc of those would qualify for Botox - botulinum toxin - injection treatment.
Dr Hendrie, who has been at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital since 2002, said migraine sufferers would have had to travel to London or Hull to get the Botox treatment, which has dramatically reduced the number attacks in some patients.
He added that it was a complete mystery as to how Botox treatment reduced migraine attacks, which was discovered by accident by beauty therapists in the 1990s treating people’s frown lines and crow’s feet.
Dr Hendrie went on a Botox masterclass in December 2012 and began offering the treatment to people with migraines from July 2013. The success of the first treatments will be known after five courses of injections later this year.
“We were the first hospital in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to be offering this service. Our first patient has had four courses of treatment and after the fifth one we will see how they are getting on.”
“When they come to me, they are desperate and they are fed up with it. One lady said it has given her life back,” he said.
When patients first attend the QEH clinic, they fill in a headache impact test questionnaire to assess how headaches affect their normal daily life and ability to function.
Dr Hendrie said that one patient had started with a score of 72 out of a maximum of 78 and after one treatment his score had reduced to 59. He added that another patient had a score of 68 before treatment and she is now at 50.
Every Botox treatment takes around 30 minutes and the affects are quick, said Dr Hendrie.
“If they have it on a Tuesday, by the weekend they start to notice an improvement and it seems to work fairly well.”
“They are having more crystal clear days. It is not a magic wand, but makes it a hell of a lot better and it makes it a lot more liveable with.”
“They are coming back so much happier and able to get on with life. It affects young adults and middle aged people and they want to get on with their lives. They feel their lives are unfairly curtailed by having migraine all the time. One patient is in her mid to late 20s and has never been able to hold a job down because she is off sick all of the time,” he said.
The use of the beauty treatment to help relieve migraines was first licensed in 2010. However, it is not yet known why it works.
“We do not know how it works. The present theory is that it effects the sensory tranches of the trigeminal nerve. It is a very woolly area and that is why so many people suffer from them and it is so difficult to help them.
“There is lots of migraine research, but the target is illusive. Botox is good at controlling symptoms while people are trying to find underlying causes,” said Dr Hendrie.
Have you got a health story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org