Botox for migraine suffers listed on PBS

People who receive Botox injections to combat chronic migraines will feel even more relief with news that the treatment is now to be subsidised on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Neurologists have been injecting chronic migraine sufferers with botulinum toxin, or Botox, for some time, but, until now, each treatment could leave patients hundreds of dollars out of pocket.

To qualify to receive the PBS-listed Botox shot, patients must have experienced an average of 15 or more headache days per month, with at least eight days of migraine, over a period of at least six months before treatment commences.

The patient must also have failed to respond to other treatments and, after two treatment cycles, must show a specified reduction in headache days per month to continue to receive the subsidised Botox treatment.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) considered a range of submissions about the use of Botox for migraine treatment before making its decision to list it for subsidy.

“The PBAC acknowledged that a clinical need exists for an effective treatment for patients with chronic migraine refractory to oral prophylactic treatments,” the Committee said.

“The PBAC noted and welcomed the input received from individuals, health care professionals, and patient support organisations via the Consumer Comments facility on the PBS website.

“Most notably, comments cited reduced pain levels, improvement in quality of life, and increased ability to function as benefits associated with treatment with botulinum toxin.”

Dr Karl Ng, from North Neurology and a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, told The Sunday Telegraph newspaper that the toxin worked by blocking the nerves that convey pain sensation.

“It has certainly worked for quite a large number of my patients. For those with chronic migraine, you can’t lead a normal life when half the month is affected by headache, you can’t go to work and you can’t function,” he said.

Botox is well known for its cosmetic uses, but is also used to treat other medical conditions, including urinary incontinence in patients suffering from conditions such as spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis; the treatment of crossed eyes in children and adults; and some other specific nerve spasm disorders.

Debra Vermeer