Groundbreaking migraine prevention drugs just smashed clinical trials
A series of late-stage drug trials are showing great promise for a completely new generation of migraine prevention drugs, which could hit the market as early as next year.
For the millions of migraine sufferers around the world, this is the most welcome news in decades, as current treatment options are limited and no migraine-specific prevention drugs even existed - until now.
These new drugs are monoclonal antibodies - lab-made proteins of the kind that our immune system deploys to target various substances in the body. In the case of migraine, these antibodies target CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide), a molecule known to play a role in migraines.
Although people sometimes think of migraines as a type of bad headache, the debilitating condition actually comes with a host of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, light and noise sensitivity, and fatigue.
A migraine attack can last from a few hours to several days, and the vast majority of sufferers - over 90 percent - have episodic migraine, which means fewer than 15 days per month. Chronic migraine can be more than 15 days per month, and can have severe effects on one’s wellbeing.
Anyone who’s struggled with migraines will know there’s a bunch of medications out there to try. For example, there are a few migraine-specific drugs people can take as ‘rescue’ medicine when a migraine attack happens. Additionally, for more frequent migraines a patient can try to take one or more medications to prevent the attacks. But none of those drugs were actually developed specifically for migraines - instead, they are things like anti-depressants, blood pressure medication or anti-epilepsy drugs, often with serious side-effects.
Which is why this new class of CGRP-targeting drugs is such a big deal. And two high-quality studies published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine show that pharmaceutical companies are on the right path.
One of these trials called STRIVE tested injections of the drug erenumab as a preventative for episodic migraine in 955 patients across 121 study sites over the span of six months.
The team found that in their study population of episodic migraines with a baseline of 8.3 attack days per month, erenumab could reduce that number by 3.2 days at a 70-mg dose and by 3.7 days at a higher, 140-mg dose.
In the higher-dose group, half of the patients experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction of the mean number of migraine days, which means that from all the days they’d lose to a migraine every month, they got at least half of that precious time back.
The “results of STRIVE represent a real transition for migraine patients from poorly understood, repurposed treatments, to a specific migraine-designed therapy,” says lead researcher Peter Goadsby from King’s College Hospital in London and NIHR-Wellcome Trust King’s Clinical Research Facility.
A migraine attack can last from a few hours to several days, and the vast majority of sufferers - over 90 percent - have episodic migraine, which means fewer than 15 days per month.