Opinion //

No pain, no gain

The government’s approach to botox is giving Erin Jordan a migraine

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If you believe a simple headache could be confused with a migraine, I suggest you stop reading here. Since I was 16, I have divided the world into two types of people: those who understand when you proclaim “I was sick with a migraine last night so I was unable to do etc.”, and those who do not. I give my sincerest thanks to all those who have told me I am taking the wrong Panadol, or the wrong amount, or at the wrong time. Perhaps your insensitivity can be explained by the fact you were absent from the emergency department the night the doctor joked I had been given enough morphine to knock out an elephant. I have come to understand that, although frustrating, I will always be faced with indifference from some people.

I refuse, however, to accept this type of nonchalance from the government. The current pre-conditions for receiving botulinum toxin (Botox) for the treatment of chronic migraines under PBS, however, reflect such nonchalance. It was only in March 2014 that Botox was finally legitimised as a treatment for those with severe migraines. It was a big hurrah for an entire community, who, at this time, needed financial support for this costly exercise. Finally, the idea that Botox could only be for frivolous cosmetic uses had been successfully challenged. For one million Australians, their struggle was finally being recognised.

However, the pre-conditions, written only in the finest of print, prove that the stigma around Botox still persists. In fact, the print is so fine that all three medical practitioners I have visited were equally unaware of its existence or are deeply confused as to what it means. To set the record straight for anyone considering this treatment, the conditions are as follows: you must have sufficiently trialled three doses of preventative medications and experience migraines for more than half the days of the average month. These conditions may not seem too strict. However, when every other preventative medication for chronic migraines exists without these pre- conditions, I cannot help but wonder why.

Why make those who are already in a difficult situation jump through hoops? Why force us to experiment with three heavy preventative medications, the side effects of which (mental disturbances and seizures) are often worse than the migraine the patient was trying to escape? The blurred vision that Topamax gave me had me convinced I was, at the ripe age of 21, losing my eyesight and in need of a thick prescription. For all the vivid nightmares I had on Propranolol, I believe I could have become a profitable screenwriter for American Horror Story. But nothing can beat the embarrassment of dozing off mid-sentence on Pizotifen, or the lovely fluid-filled “kankles” it would cause me to wake up with. I cannot fully express the dismay I felt upon discovering that my favourite boots would simply not fit over them.

The only reason these pre-conditions exist is to prevent and discourage the use of Botox as a preventative, despite the fact it is the sole preventative without debilitating side effects. These conditions are borne out of an irrational fear that migraine sufferers will swamp clinics for a free facelift. As this month draws to an end, I am excited to have finally passed the government’s test: I am on my last preventative trial. However, as my journey is ending, I cannot help but feel sympathetic for those who will be forced to follow in my footsteps. The government does not feel my sympathy.