Background.— Despite the high level of individual and societal burden resulting from headache disorders, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded relatively little research on these disorders.
Objective.— The objective of this study was to define current patterns of NIH funding of research on headache disorders.
Methods.— The Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects database was searched using the terms “migraine” or “headache” or “trigeminovascular” and inclusive of the dates 1987 to November 2007. Titles and abstracts of the resulting projects were reviewed to identify headache research projects and to extract data. E-mails were sent to each of the principal investigators to identify investigators experienced in serving on NIH study sections. E-mails and membership directories were used to determine if principal investigators were members of the American Headache Society. Comparisons were made for levels of NIH funding for migraine, headache disorders, and 10 other medical disorders relative to 3 measures of disease burden.
Results.— A total of 111 headache research projects led by 93 different investigators were identified. Research project grants (Rs) accounted for 61 (55%) of the grants. Migraine was the most common headache type studied, being the focus in 77 (69.4%) of the projects. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke was responsible for funding 66 (59.5%) of the projects. At least 30 (32.3%) of the principal investigators were American Headache Society members and 14 (15%) had served on NIH study sections.
Conclusions.— A small number of research grants on headache disorders were funded by the NIH over the last 2 decades, with 2007 funding estimated between $6.8 and $13 million. By comparison to NIH funding of research on 10 chronic medical conditions relative to disease burden, headache research funding should exceed $103 million annually.