While most people experience headaches from time to time, migraine sufferers are blessed with a completely different level of chronic agony. Migraines are a debilitating condition that affect over 38 million American. Beyond intense physical pain, common migraine symptoms include nausea, vomiting, impaired vision, noise and light sensitivity, and even loss of speech. Beyond being a debilitating condition that leaves the afflicted with chronic pain, migraines also affect cis women at a significantly higher rate than cis men. So on top of deep systems of patriarchy and economic exploitation, working women are abused in yet another way: having to explain how the pain felt from their migraines is real and debilitating.
This dynamic mirrors other invisible physical and mental health diagnosis. For instance, depression, where one cannot just look at a person and say “that person is sick!” However, unlike depression, the medicinal treatments for migraines has a radically different structure. Most antidepressants are prescribed as a daily medication or PRN (pro re nata), and they are fairly easy to access.
This is not the case when treating migraines in America, where those without insurance are forced to suffer and those with insurance must endure the bureaucratic red tape of the healthcare industry. My wife, who is an insured chronic migraine sufferer, must pay out of pocket for “alternative” treatments such as massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and even FDA approved treatments like Botox injections. In addition to these treatments, migraine sufferers are typically referred out to a neurologist and prescribed medications.
Unfortunately, many of these medications come in limited quantities (i.e., like the 9 pills of Immitrex my wife gets each month) or they come with nasty side effects. Those who have limited quantities of medications, are forced to ration their medication and chose whether to suffer through this current migraine so they can protect themselves through the next one. Those who experience nasty side effects must conduct a cost/benefit analysis.
Don’t worry though, because the magnanimous pharmaceutical industry has developed a method of ridding migraine havers from their pain and suffering! Amivog is a monthly injectable that aims to eliminate the effects of migraines and allow patients to live without the worry of a sudden migraine that leaves you bedridden. Only one catch: it’s 6,900 dollars a year.
Everyone deserves this treatment, yet the only ones who will have easy access to it are not only the insured, but the wealthiest among us. So while the upper class may soon be migraine free, working women will continue to toil away in wage labor. These women will continue to suffer, and be forced to make challenging decisions such as dealing with aggravating and debilitating pain at work or call in sick. Which, even if you have plenty of time off will lead to less opportunity at work, yet again reinforcing versions of gendered and economic oppression.
This cycle is called business as normal. In Business Insider, they describe the development of these drugs as an attempt “to go after the huge migraine market.” How sick is that, looking for the capitalistic opportunities from this kind of suffering? Big Pharma is not looking to cure the world of this or any other kind of pain. Instead, their aim is to operate a cartel so they can maximize profit by leveraging human suffering with medication to relieve that pain.
We here at Unpopular Front say fuck that. Fuck the system that decides who is forced to suffer from debilitating conditions and who is able to live without it. Fuck the work culture that rewards those who “tough it out” and never call out sick, reinforcing systems of oppression against women and parents. Most of all, fuck the industry that looks to turn the pursuit of knowledge and the sciences into just another profit-seeking enterprise based on whatever the market may bear.