Chronic Headache Sufferers Seek Relief in Black Market!

July 23, 2012

To what lengths would you go for relief from your chronic headache condition?  Your kitchen cupboard, the pharmacy…how about the black market? When Novartis, the maker of popular over the counter headache reliever Excedrin, announced a recall of the drug on January 8 of this year, that’s exactly what chronic migraine sufferers did.  They turned to ‘alternative’ sources, like ebay, willing to pay anything for Excedrin tablets.  For many migraineurs, it’s the only drug, they often swear, that works for them.  Out of desperation they have been paying hugely inflated prices.  According to ABC News, a recent bid for 50 tablets yielded a price of $60, while another seller was offering 100 tablets for a whopping $150.

Novartis has suggested that their products will return to store shelves in the second half of the year, but hasn’t specified which products will be rolled out and when.  The original recall was attributed to defects in packaging, which resulted in various prescription pain pills appearing in the products.  There were no illnesses reported in connection with the recalled products, but that doesn’t mitigate the risks that people are taking by ingesting medication from unauthorized resellers of products on auction sites.

“These medications are being passed on by private individuals, and there’s no control over where that particular medication has been or if there’s been tampering,” Dr. Charles Flippen, a professor of medicine at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine, told ABC.

So what is the magic elixir in this medication that has driven the intense loyalty among chronic headache sufferers, who are now willing to defy caution and reason while rushing to unscrupulous sources to obtain the elusive drug? The active ingredients in one Excedrin tablet are aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine.  According to Dr. Joel Saper,  director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, taking the equivalent individual ingredients, 250 mg of aspirin, 250 mg of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and 65 mg of caffeine (about one cup of coffee) may help just as well.  Generic versions of this combination exist, however some people swear that these do not work as well.

Dr. Saper told ABC News, however, that although Excedrin does in fact work very well for some chronic migraine sufferers, caution must be used to avoid overusing any migraine drugs. “You have to be careful with these drugs. You can get trapped in them. It’s not addictive by its components, but in some cases, the more you take it, the more headaches you have, then the more you take and it may start to actually drive the headaches.”  While Novartis restocks the migraine drug shelves, generics, individual ingredients, alternatives and interventional medicine offer many solutions to migraine symptoms, so you can skip a shopping trip to the ‘black market’.

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo

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