As every migraine sufferer knows all too well, when that granddaddy of all headaches strikes, you can be laid up for days with throbbing head pain, nausea and/or vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
A new way to stop it: The FDA has approved a new once-monthly injectable drug, erenumab-aooe (Aimovig), that helps reduce the number of days that migraineurs are affected by these debilitating headaches.
Even though medical experts still have not determined exactly what causes migraines, they have recently discovered that the levels of a molecule called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) rise in brain cells during migraine pain. Aimovig is the first drug that works by blocking the activity of CGRP.
Scientific evidence: To test the new treatment, three clinical trials, including 955 patients with different types of migraine, were conducted. Two of the trials enrolled people with episodic migraine (four to 14 headache days per month). Patients in the first study who used Aimovig over a six-month period reported one to two fewer monthly migraine days, on average, than those who received a placebo. Patients in the second study, which lasted three months, reported an average of one fewer migraine day per month than those in the placebo group. Put another way, that’s 24 to 48 fewer hours per month without headache pain.
The third study enrolled patients with chronic migraine (15 or more headache days per month for three or more months). Over a three-month period, the Aimovig users reported an average of 2 1/2 fewer monthly migraine days than those who used a placebo. That’s 60 fewer hours per month without headache pain.
Eric Bastings, MD, deputy director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, called the medication a “novel option” to help minimize the suffering caused by migraines. “We need new treatments for this painful and often debilitating condition,” Dr. Bastings said.
Migraines are most commonly treated with over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription-strength pain relievers…a class of medications known as triptans…antinausea drugs…and, in some cases, injections of the well-known wrinkle treatment Botox, which was FDA-approved for chronic migraines in 2010. The effectiveness of these medications varies depending on the patient.
The Aimovig injection can be self-administered. The most common side effects reported by patients in the clinical trials were constipation, along with pain, redness, itching, tenderness or bruising at the injection site.
Important: Be sure to check with your insurer about coverage for Aimovig. Due to its high cost, insurers may require migraine patients to try other less expensive generic drugs before approving coverage for Aimovig. Also: Check with your doctor and pharmacist about potential side effects and interactions with other medicines.
Nondrug approaches can also help to control migraine symptoms. Read here for the latest therapies.