Drugs show prom­ise in re­duc­ing mi­graines

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - By Mar­i­lynn Mar­chione

New, long-act­ing drugs may hold hope for mil­lions of peo­ple who suf­fer fre­quent mi­graines. Stud­ies of two of these medicines, given as shots ev­ery month or so, found they cut the fre­quency of the no­to­ri­ously painful and dis­abling headaches.

The drugs are the first preven­tive medicines de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for mi­graines.

“It’s a whole new di­rec­tion” for treat­ment and an im­por­tant ad­vance for peo­ple who don’t want to take or aren’t helped by the daily pills some­times used now to pre­vent re­cur­rences, said Dr. An­drew Her­shey, neu­rol­ogy chief at Cincin­nati Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

He had no role in the re­search but has tested other migraine drugs and wrote a com­men­tary pub­lished with the stud­ies Wed­nes­day by the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

One study tested erenumab, from Am­gen and No­var­tis, in about 900 peo­ple who av­er­aged eight mi­graines a month. For six months, they were given monthly shots into the ab­domen of a high dose of the drug, a low dose or a dummy medicine. The num­ber of days they suf­fered mi­graines each month dropped by three to four in the drug groups and nearly two in the placebo group. Half of the pa­tients on the higher dose saw their migraine days cut at least in half.

The sec­ond study tested fre­manezumab, from Teva Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, for chronic migraine, de­fined as headaches on 15 or more days per month, at least eight of them mi­graines. 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.

Monthly headache days dropped by four to five in the groups given the drug and by two to three for those given dummy treat­ments.

“There are some pa­tients who have had a com­plete re­sponse — they be­come headache-free,” Her­shey said.

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

Both drugs have been sub­mit­ted to the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion for ap­proval.

Many study lead­ers work for or have other fi­nan­cial ties to the drug­mak­ers, and the com­pa­nies helped an­a­lyze re­sults.

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