Individuals that are experiencing frequent migraines, may soon receive access to a new class of medications.
A pair of large studies showed that two drugs have the ability to reduce the frequency of the migraine attacks, without any side effects. The researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine that the drugs offer the first ever migraine treatment that is aimed at the disorder itself, instead of the symptoms.
Current migraine treatments consist of drugs that are designed to treat epilepsy, depression and high blood pressure. Peter Goadsby, an author of one of the studies in question and a professor at King’s College in London says that they give the patients a choice between antidepressants that will make them sleepy, and a beta blocker, which will make them feel tired.
The new drugs contain special antibodies that can dampen a system in the brain that modulates pain. Stephen Silberstein says that their effect is a bit like soundproofing. He says that the antibodies have the ability to prevent the “noise” from aggravating the system.
The general idea is to prevent the rage of symptoms that a migraine brings, including nausea, sensitivity to light and headaches. Silberstein’s study gave quarterly or monthly injections of an antibody that is called femanezumab, to more than 700 of his patients that are experiencing chronic migraines. He says that the patients have attacks that occur almost daily, which prevents his patients from doing their daily activities.
Close to 50 percent of the people who got this new drug, experienced fewer migraine attacks, and there are also people in which migraine attacks almost stopped.
In the other study which was led by Goadsby, an antibody called erenumab, produced similar effects in patients that had as much as 14 migraine attacks a month. It is also important to say that neither drug produced more side effects than a placebo pill.
These studies and the results that they gave are excellent news for the people that are constantly suffering from migraines. The new drugs expand the options that the patients had up until now.
But, it is also important to note that these drugs did not have the same effect on everyone, and they did not work for everybody. Andrew Hershey directs the headache center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says that the effectiveness of the drugs was aided by a placebo effect. People that got the placebo experienced a decrease in migraine attacks by 20 percent, which means that the treatment group was more successful, but not by much. Hershey did not participate in the research, but he wrote an editorial about it, and he describes the benefit of the drugs to be “modest, but meaningful”.
According to him, these new drugs are bound to be super-expensive, probably costing thousands of dollars a month, which means that they will be probably reserved for individuals that are severely disabled by migraines.
These new drugs are expected to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration in the next couple of months. Both of them are expected to reach the market sometime in 2018