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'Real change': Breakthrough drug could halve length of migraine attacks

30 November 2017

A new migraine drug that can halve the length of attacks has been hailed as "the start of real change" in how the condition is treated.

Two studies of these medicines found that the drugs can cut the frequency of the well-known painful headaches.

The findings, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, clearly showed that blocking the CGRP pathway could reduce the impact of migraine, he said. The drugs work by interfering with a substance involved in modifying nerve signaling and progression of pain and symptoms.

Migraines are characterised by an intense, throbbing headache, sensitivity to light and noise, nausea, vomiting, low energy, and visual disturbances.

In a discussion with BBC, Professor Peter Goadsby - leader of the erenumab trials - stated that "It's a huge deal because it offers an advance in understanding the disorder and a designer migraine treatment..."

"This therapeutic approach offers new hope for people whose migraines can not be treated with existing medicine", said Stephen D. Silberstein, professor of neurology and director of the Jefferson Headache Center. These excruciating headaches can often render people unable to perform simple tasks or even hold a conversation. At the beginning of the trial, patients experienced an average of 8 migraines a month, and about 50% of those given the antibody injections had a 50% reduced occurrence.

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They were then given a high dose of the drug for a period of six months, and the researchers noted a significant improvement in their condition.

"I can have anywhere from 15 to 18 headaches per month, and probably five of those days are migraines", but that dropped 40 per cent on the drug, she said.

About 1,000 patients were given monthly shots for three months: One third got the drug each time, another third got the drug the first time and then dummy shots the next two times, and the rest got dummy shots each time. The mean number of baseline headache days per month was about 13 in all three groups.

No worrisome side effects emerged, but the studies were very short, so long-term safety and effectiveness are unknown.

"We saw some patients with 100 percent reduction in migraine, others with 75 percent reduction", said Silberstein, who served as the trial's principal investigator.

'Real change': Breakthrough drug could halve length of migraine attacks