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Press Release

Elvis Presley's Private Struggle With Intractable Migraines Revealed


For Immediate Release

Contact: Terri Miller Burchfield
AT: (703) 349-1929

       Washington, DC (April 19, 1999) - In the heartland of the country, Migraine sufferer Jennifer Johnson is rushed to a Wisconsin emergency room. Jennifer, who suffers from just a few Migraines a year, was not responding to her home OTC (over-the-counter) treatment regimen and so came to the ER to put an end to the severe pain and nausea caused from her three-day-long debilitating Migraine attack. But to her shock and dismay, this Midwest emergency room would only add to her suffering. The ER refused to give her treatment, and, in frustration and disabling pain, she went to the only other hospital in the small city. Jennifer, like so many other Migraineurs, could pass a drug test with flying colors, does not drink alcohol, and hates smoking. But based upon her 'look' and a health care professional's misinterpretation of the existence of 'migraine behavior,' Jennifer was assumed to be a 'drug seeker' and was turned away. This scenario, unfortunately, is nothing new, as Americans have been misunderstanding the behavior of Migraine sufferers for decades. Some well-known Americans have had to endure this misunderstanding, oftentimes negatively affecting their legacy. The most recent findings reveal the fact that the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, suffered from Migraines and that his condition has been greatly misunderstood.
   

       One of the corner stones of any disease awareness campaign is letting patients know that they are not alone in their suffering, but instead are in good company. Accordingly, MAGNUM gets very positive responses from sufferers who visit MAGNUM's Web site http://www.migraines.org, and communications indicate that Migraine sufferers find great comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. Knowing that others have accomplished great things in spite of their Migraine disability is empowering. Compiling a list of famous Migraineurs is a daunting task, however, as many have hidden the fact that they have Migraine (or 'sick headaches' as they where known in the past). Furthermore, as pointed out by Dr. Stuart R. Stark, Director of the Neurology & Headache Treatment Center in Alexandria, Virginia, many persons with Migraines are misdiagnosed, further fogging the issue. Many individuals do or did not realize that they suffer from Migraines and instead dangerously blamed their illness on depression or other somatoforms.

       Recently MAGNUM was updating its You Are In Good Company section of its more than one-hundred-page award-winning Migraine awareness Web site when it noticed that its site was the only one to list Elvis Presley as a Migraine sufferer. To the staff at MAGNUM, it seemed obvious that Elvis suffered from Migraines based upon public records and Elvis' observed behavior. It came to MAGNUM's attention that the rumors of Elvis' abuse of unneeded prescription drugs, illegal drug use, drinking, and other intonated but unsupportable behavior, could be attributed to his Migraines. The typical rhetoric so many Migraine sufferers deal with every day, even today, seemed to surround this gifted artist. In response, MAGNUM's Executive Director, Michael John Coleman, spent several weeks investigating to once and for all confirm or deny whether the King of rock and roll suffered from Migraine disease and if his Migraines were treated.

       With the assistance of Marvin Robinstien, Development Officer of the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, MAGNUM was able identify who in the Memphis medical community should be contacted to discuss the facts regarding Mr. Presley's Migraines. Mr. Coleman, armed with various observations, past press leaks, and public record facts (such as Mr. Presley's October and November 1973 Hospital stays for "headache and mild hypertension," his 1975 hospital stay for "extensive eye exam" which was later discovered to be for migraine aura problems, and physicians' reports from both the Baptist Hospital and the Mid-South Hospital regarding Mr. Presley's eye problems, i.e., aura, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, pain, slurred speech, and other Migrainious traits) began digging for the facts to support the existence of Elvis' Migraines.

       MAGNUM Executive Director Michael John Coleman conducted an extensive interview with the kind and articulate Dr. George Nichopoulos, Elvis Presley's personal physician, during which was discussed Elvis' seemingly Migraine-related behavior. Discussed, among other things, were public records and accounts of Elvis' life, including a Washington, D.C. radio broadcast which talked about leaked information from Elvis' autopsy, including certain drugs found in the singer's bloodstream such as Demerol, Propranolol, LSD, and antiemetics. The primary indicator that Elvis had Migraines gleaned from these public reports was that the very drugs found in Elvis' system at the time of the autopsy were used in the 70's to treat anyone under good prudent care for intractable Migraine. MAGNUM raised the subject of the autopsy drug information during the interview and noted that the best and only abortive drug family available in the 1970's to treat Migraine was the prescription ergotamine drug family. This is important because ergotamine most often tests as LSD, as ergot alkaloid is structurally related to the potent hallucinogen LSD. In addition, Propranolol, Demerol, and antiemetics were all common medications used to treat Migraine. Accordingly, Dr. Nichopoulos confirmed to MAGNUM that Mr. Presley was indeed treated for reoccurring and debilitating Migraines. DHE45, an ergotamine derivative, was Elvis' primary abortive Migraine regimen. However, unfortunately for Elvis, DHE45 can only be used a limited number of times a month, thereby requiring Elvis to depend upon more conventional pain management therapies such as analgesics and narcotics to treat his other debilitating Migraine attacks. (Although DHE injection has been used for many years in the effective treatment of Migraine, it is now considered more appropriate for treating the most severe cases since less toxic agents are currently available such as a more refined DHE Nasal spray under the name of Migranal®.) MAGNUM also noted that the press concluded that Elvis suffered from hypertension problems based upon the presence of Propranolol, a common hypertension prescription drug, in his blood. However, Propranolol is also approved by the FDA for use as a Migraine prophylactic treatment, which Dr. Nichopoulos confirmed Elvis was undergoing.

       There was a time in this country when Migraine was thought by many in the medical community to be a psychosomatic illness. If it were not for the dedicated commitment over the past two decades of more enlightened physicians who understood that Migraine is an organic neurological disease, we wouldn't have the care and treatment now available to Migraine sufferers. Better understanding of Migraine continues to be advanced by such pioneers as Drs. Keith Campbell, Seymour Diamond, Merle Diamond, Nabih Ramadan , Joel Saper, Fred Sheftell, and Steven Silberstein. Better understanding of Migraine disease is also being underscored more often in the press, for example, in the cover story run in the FDA Consumer Magazine last May. That article pointed out that, according to the American Medical Association, Migraine is a neurological disorder, not a psychological disorder.

       No dedicated medical test for Migraine currently exists, so proper diagnosis and treatment of Migraine remains critical. According to MAGNUM's Legislative Director, Terri Miller Burchfield, the overall best approach to Migraine treatment and management is what MAGNUM calls a MULTIFACTORIAL approach to Migraine treatment: this approach involves addressing all four aspects of Migraine health care, namely, preventive treatment, trigger management, abortive treatment, and general pain management. In addition to proper treatment of Migraine, knowledge about Migraine and other disease awareness activities are potent weapons in the fight improve the quality of life of Migraineurs, Ms. Burchfield went on to say.

       Although the negative social stigma currently attached to persons suffering from Migraine disease is not as bad as it was in the 1950's, 60's, or 70's, it still has a long way to go. The good news is that thanks to groups like ACHE (American Council on Headache Education), the WHA (World Headache Alliance), and MAGNUM (The National Migraine Association), and thanks to new anti-migraine drugs and aggressive research conducted on Migraine in the 90's, the world is finally beginning to overcome the myths and misconceptions that surround this debilitating disease.

       For further information on Migraines or the efforts to protect Migraineurs and those with head-pain, visit MAGNUM's Web site www.migraines.org or call MAGNUM's Washington, DC office at (703) 349-1929.

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All information offered on the Web Site, whether by a lay person or a health care professional, is for educational purposes only and should not, in any way, be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, or recommendation for treatment. While this information can provide you with a basis for discussion with your health care team, it cannot take the place of professional medical care. Please consult your practitioner.
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Artwork Michael John Coleman, Janet McKenzie, or Cara Weston. All other artists noted by 1976-2012