The First New Migraine Drug in 20 Years Cuts Headache Frequency in Half

Migraines can be debilitating, but there's new hope on the horizon.

HeadacheVika Hova/Shutterstock If you’re one of the one in seven people worldwide that suffer from the misery of migraines, you’ll know how debilitating it can be. As well as a blinding headache, sufferers often experience hypersensitivity to sounds and to light, nausea, vomiting, and disturbed vision. These effects can last for up to 72 hours, with wide-ranging side effects, and increased risk of some mental health disorders. It’s estimated that around 37 million people in the U.S. are plagued with this condition and it could be costing the U.S. economy up to $17 billion every year. But now scientists have revealed the results of a new treatment, and the signs are encouraging, making this the first effective drug in 20 years.

Scientists have discovered the chemical responsible for triggering attacks. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is what causes the pain and sensitivity to light, although no one is completely sure why migraines occur. (Check out possible reasons you may get a migraine.)

Pharmaceutical companies have been seeking a drug that blocks CGRP, so limiting attacks. Previous migraine relief treatments have included drugs initially used to treat heart conditions and epilepsy, as well as Botox, but these treatments didn’t always work and also had unpleasant side effects. The new drug, Erenumab, is an antibody specifically designed to combat CGRP.

In the Strive trial, conducted at Kings College Hospital, London UK, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, almost 1,000 patients were injected once a month with Erenumab (70mg or 140mg), or with a placebo. These patients usually had around eight attacks a month. Researchers found that the number of attacks halved for 43 percent of patients given the 70 mg dose, and half of those receiving the 140 mg dose saw a similar drop. The severity of attacks also decreased.

Around a quarter of those receiving the placebo also saw a reduction in frequency, something not uncommon in migraine trials. However, the researchers are clear that these results showed definitively that Erenumab was effective in reducing the severity and frequency of attacks.

Lead researcher, Peter Goadsby PhD, of Kings College, London, described the results to The Guardian as “an incredibly important step forward for migraine understanding and treatment.”

This is the first treatment designed specifically to tackle this condition, rather than making use of treatments initially designed to tackle other health disorders.

“It’s a huge deal because it offers an advance in understanding the disorder and a designer migraine treatment,” Dr. Goadsby told BBC News, ” It reduces the frequency and severity of headaches.” He went on to say that 20 percent of patients didn’t have any attacks at all following the treatment.

Further trials are necessary to investigate possible side effects, but it’s hoped that because this is a tailor-made antibody, it will be a safe and effective drug to treat a very debilitating condition. For sufferers, the future is definitely looking brighter. In the meantime, try these 10 proven remedies for migraines.

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Elizabeth Manneh
Elizabeth Manneh is a freelance writer focusing mainly on healthcare, digital health & technology, and health & wellness. Her work has been featured on Readers Digest, MSN, AOL, The Family Handyman, and Paysa. A retired primary school principal and education consultant, Manneh has a continuing passion for education and learning. Visit her website: Elizabeth Manneh.