New Drug Class Unveiled for Migraine Pain Relief

JUNE 18, 2015
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
Multiple studies have demonstrated the efficacy of a new class of drugs for preventing the intense pain and crippling effects of migraines.

Migraines affect nearly 36 million Americans, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, and may be especially prominent in those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. However, new medication to inhibit the condition has not been approved since 1991 and even then its purpose was to treat, not prevent the pain.

“There is no question that we need something better,” Peter J. Goadsby, MD, PhD, said in a news release. “In fact, for prevention we really need something specifically for migraine.”

The new class of drugs, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies, is showing positive results in preventing high-frequency episodic migraines and chronic migraines. Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Headache Center presented the “truly landmark development” at the American Headache Society 57th Annual Scientific Meeting.

“Up till now, migraine patients have had limited choices for preventive treatment,” said Goadsby, chief of the UCSF Headache Center. “Now 4 pharmaceutical companies are showing positive results in human trials targeting CGRP mechanisms.”

In one phase IIB trial by Teva, the CGRP drug proved to be an effective treatment for preventing episodic migraines. It reduced the amount of headache hours in more than half of the participants within one week. The researchers noted that those patients also experienced a decrease in migraine frequency of at least 50%. A study by Lilly TruAssist reported positive results against episodic migraines with the monthly administration of a CGRP drug when compared to a placebo.

“This development is a transformative moment in migraine treatment,” Goadsby said.

According to phase II research by Amgen, half of the patients experienced 50% fewer migraine days after 12 weeks of treatment with an anti-CGRP drug. The last clinical trial by Alder Pharmaceutical produced conclusive results with an anti-CGRP medication as well.

Although there’s no word yet as to when these drugs will be approved, the researchers are optimistic about stopping chronic headaches and accompanying ailments such as nausea and sensitivity to light or sound.

“The potential of these new compounds is enormous and gives us real hope that effective specific treatments for migraine may be on the near horizon,” Goadsby concluded.

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