Novartis, Healint study uses self tracking app to examine migraine, mental health connection

Novartis and Healint employed the Migraine Buddy app to track how migraines interact with anxiety and depression.
By Laura Lovett
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A recent presentation by headache-focused digital health company Healint and pharma giant Novartis employed Healint’s migraine tracking app Migraine Buddy to look at how migraines interact with anxiety and depression. The research found that chronic migraines may induce anxiety and depression instead of the other way around, contradicting previous thought. 

Researchers were able to look at the responses of more than 1 million users of the migraine tracking app, according to a statement. In the presentation given at the Fourth Congress of the European Academy of Neurology, researchers zeroed in on a sample of 43,189 users' responses.

"Anxiety and depressive moods are often considered as triggers of a migraine attack for people who live with this complex condition," Francois Cadiou, founder and CEO of Healint, said in a statement. "Healint’s unique real-world evidence suggests, however, that anxiety and depression may result from migraine, not the other way around. Our goal with Migraine Buddy’s innovative tracking capabilities is always to help doctors identify the best treatment choice for each patient, using patient-reported real-world and clinical evidence. The combination of the right treatments and lifestyle adjustments can yield the best outcome for the patient, and reduce the societal and economic burden of migraines.”

Authors of the study found that 43 percent of users in the sample suffered from anxiety or depression during a migraine attack (37 percent reporting anxiety and 20 percent reporting depression). The results also show that half of the patients with 15 or more migraine days a month reported anxiety or depression, compared to 34 percent of patients with less than four migraine days. 

“Our alliance with Healint is a testament to our commitment to the migraine community and those with this common, debilitating, and complex disease,” Lisa Deschamps, worldwide business head of neuroscience at Novartis, said in a statement. “Migraine Buddy helps people with migraine identify triggers, track the course of their attacks, and gain insight into their condition. By joining forces with Healint, we aim to support people with migraine, and provide them with an innovative solution to better manage this disease’s impact.”

The two companies are also teaming up to support the Migraine Buddy app as a means of aiding conversations between doctors and patients. In addition, Novartis will be giving its employees the option to use Migraine Buddy in a pilot program, which was announced in July. 

Novartis has been interested in the digital health game for a long time now. This interest appears to be quite broad, ranging from inking a deal with major digital therapeutic company Pear Therapeutics to launching its own app for ophthalmic clinical trials. In July it worked with video game company Numinous Games to launch a digital storytelling app to help support cancer patients and their families.