I miss Botox, but not because of its magical way to erase wrinkles. Rather it has been the best preventative treatment I’ve ever tried for migraines.
The first time I had Botox was probably 14 years ago. It was finally becoming a recognized migraine treatment, one that insurances would pay for. Back then it was only a small amount injected just in the forehead. I had several treatments but saw no visible improvements. I had already exhausted most traditional treatments for migraines with either little impact or horrible side effects. My doctors have often called me a special case because I don’t respond to Triptans, which is the family of medicines used to treat migraines. I’ve tried them all. Either they had no effect or made me feel worse. Triptans are rescue medications taken at the onset of a migraine. My rescue meds for years weren’t Triptans but narcotics and muscle relaxers, which eventually made things worse. So my doctors started focusing on preventatives, which can actually decrease the number and intensity of migraines.
I tried a lot of preventatives. Everything from anti-seizure meds to medications for high blood pressure (it’s believed that these meds can prevent the constriction of blood vessels and therefore pain). Nothing helped, and I couldn’t deal with the side effects of lethargy and nausea.
I tried physical therapy, nerve block shots, chiropractors and acupuncture. So many years later, Botox came back around. Now Botox is a common preventative. There are even ads on TV recommending Botox for migraines! A lot changed since my first treatment. The dosage is greater, and there are multiple injection sites: forehead, temples, neck and shoulders. There were probably about 40 separate injection sites. It’s not painful. It’s a small prick. Initially, I didn’t think it would help. I didn’t see much improvement at first (I keep a headache journal that tracks when I have headaches and the severity). What I did see was that the Botox made my left eye kind of droopy. After all, Botox does paralyze the muscle. The Botox wasn’t injected for cosmetic reasons so my neurologist wasn’t going for aesthetics. It did improve, and as I got more treatments my eye seemed to get used to it.
After about six months (two treatments), it was starting to work. I wasn’t pain free, but the number and intensity of the migraines improved. I still had headaches about half the days of the month. This was a decrease from 20 to 30 days. So that was a success.
However, it’s now been nine months since my last treatment. The insurance I currently have does not cover Botox. In fact, it won’t cover much of anything. I made the choice to change insurance to reduce the premium cost, but of course you get what you pay for, which in this case, isn’t much.
I don’t mean for this to turn into a rant on healthcare, but I’m literally sick by the fact that as a tax paying, hard working person, I can’t get access to treatments that would dramatically improve the quality of my life. I don’t have any answers. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard for sick people to get help.
What may surprise you is that the insurance that paid for the Botox was a plan I found through the Healthcare Marketplace. The plan that denies everything is through my employer. Yes, the premiums were more but the coverage better. I remember a time not so long ago where I had phenomenal coverage. But that’s in the past. Employers are doing all they can to reduce benefit costs while insurance companies simply deny coverage. Healthcare is a for profit business in this country. If you need any proof of that, turn on your TV and wait for the numerous pharmaceutical commercials.
I’m not alone in my struggle to get access to the meds I need. This country is currently in a tailspin over the EpiPen price increase. I happened to read a good article on this, which basically called out the fact that Mylan has a monopoly on this type of treatment and because of government regulation can charge what it wants; the price is not set by the market.
Again, I don’t have any answers. I’m not an expert. I’ve always had insurance and paid my fair share. I just miss the Botox. And more importantly the relief it provided.