New Migraine Medication Works When Other Drugs Do Not, Claim Researchers

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Wednesday 18th April 2018

A monthly migraine injection appears in tests to migraine headaches for people with hard-to-treat conditions, leading researchers to claim that it works where other drugs fail, and could help a third of people suffering from intractable migraine.

The drug, erenumab, is an injection taken each month that if testing proves the cost of treatment is justified it could be offered on the NHS. It is also one of the first drugs designed specifically for migraine in decades.

Erenumab is one of four other drugs being tested that are known as monoclonal antibody drugs. Many migraine drugs are repurposed medicines for other conditions, such as blood pressure and epilepsy. Erenumab works different from other migraine reducing drugs in that it is an antibody that blocks a particular pain receptor that is thought to cause migraines, directly stopping the pain.

Migraines are often a misunderstood condition, usually linked to severe headaches, which understates the debilitating nature of the condition. One in seven people in Britain are affected by migraines and it is characterised by a severe throbbing pain, one that stops people from resting, sleeping and working, as well as causing sickness and nausea. Others develop visual symptoms like blind spots, tunnel vision and seeing colourful shapes, otherwise known as an aura. These symptoms can last for days, and often require strong painkillers to alleviate.

People who have taken part in the erenumab study have reported significantly lower rates of monthly migraine headaches, with the average reduction for a third of people on the study being well over fifty percent. One person on the study found that her headaches had reduced from between 12 and 15 to between 6 and 8, and the fewer instances are also shorter and less instense. The results highlight a drug that isn’t a miracle cure, but something that will result in a serious reduction in migraine episodes and can mean the difference between manageable and unmanageable pain during migraine attacks.

Experts have expressed similar hope that these treatments will show similar efficacy in the long term, but longer clinical trials will be needed to check for side effects and to see if these drugs can be as life changing as the 12 week trials seem to suggest.

The promise of the treatment is such that the focus of experts is not whether the drug should be approved and treated, but working out who will benefit the most right out of the gate.

Erenumab and fremanezumab, another monoclonal antibody medicine designed for migraines, have been submitted to drug regulators in Europe and the United States, with a result expected soon.

Until then, people who took part in the trial can use the drug for up to a year. Whether they can use the drug afterwards will depend on approval.

It is a promising development that could stand to improve millions of lives significantly if approved and if the short term effects translate into long term pain reduction.