About 37 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches; with women more affected than men. In 2016, migraines affected over a billion people worldwide. With symptoms that include severe and debilitating headache, nausea (often accompanied by vomiting), light and noise sensitivity, and difficulty speaking, migraines are one of the top 10 causes of disability. About 2% of the population suffers from chronic migraines, which can have serious impacts on school, work, and mental and physical health. In fact, about a quarter of sufferers report that their migraines have caused them to call in sick within the last 3 months.
Up until recently, medications used to treat migraines have been only marginally effective. Worse, they’re riddled with side effects, many of which are unpleasant enough to cause patients to discontinue treatment altogether. Some patients have even complained the side effects of their migraine medications were worse than the migraines themselves.
A Novel Approach
A new medication, Aimovig, has just been approved by the FDA and has hit the market. It works differently than other migraine treatments. It blocks a protein fragment, CGRP, which is often elevated in those who suffer from migraines. CGRP interacts with nerve cells, and it causes blood vessels to dilate, both of which are associated with migraines. By blocking the useable CGRP levels within the body, Aimovig reduces the chances of a migraine headache ever having the chance to form.
Drug companies have tried multiple routes to help block CGRP production, but found that drugs designed specifically to block CGRP were too toxic to be considered for therapeutic use. Then, researchers tried using monoclonal antibodies, with exciting results. This new therapy targets CGRP, binding with it and rendering it benign rather than altering the body’s actual chemistry.
Cost-Effective New Treatment?
Human drug trials have been promising so far, with participants reporting up to 50% reduction in headaches with no notable side effects! Drug developers will be listing the drug at $6,900 a year. It’s hard to say whether patients—or insurance companies—will be willing to pay that price, but it’s a lot less costly than it could have been; estimates had originally put the cost at over $10,000 per year. For those who suffer regularly from migraine headaches, the price tag, which equates to $575 per month, might be well within reach of many and well worth it. Doctors note the impact migraines have on quality of life can be profound, and some patients have run out of options; could Aimovig be what they’ve been hoping for?