A new drug triggers certain brain chemicals that prevents chronic migraines by interrupting the chain of events that leads to the headache.
One of the common emotions of migraine sufferers is the anxiety of knowing another migraine attack is on its way. The unbearable pain, the constant feeling of wanting to retch, feeling off balance and being moody are some of the few symptoms that they have to handle. Most patients can find some relief from migraine remedies. But now researchers have designed a new class of drugs that can stop a migraine attack even before it starts. The phase II human trials for this drug concluded that several patients found great relief by preventing the migraine altogether.
According to the American Headache Society, more than 36 million Americans endure migraine attacks with 4 million of these patients having chronic migraines that appear about 15 times a month. Living a normal life can be difficult with these chronic migraines because patients have to always be prepared to control the pain. Most patients depend on over-the-counter pills like ibuprofen or prescription medication like ergotamine and sumatriptan tablets but these strong drugs can have several side effects like weakness, nausea and fatigue, among others.
The new drug is designed with a new class of compounds that was extremely effective on the participants. The drug also proved to have surprisingly few side effects making it a new breakthrough discovery for chronic migraine sufferers. Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York said, “I think that these are truly designer drugs for migraine.”
CGRP is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the mechanism of creating migraines. During a migraine attack, the CGRP levels elevates. The CGRP controls the opening of blood vessels and is also a component in the transmission of pain signals. CGRP is released by nerves and it causes inflammation of the nervous system. The new drug is designed with monoclonal antibodies which are lab-engineered immune system proteins that attack the CGPR to decrease the levels when injected into the body.
Current medication to control migraines involves triptans which block CGRP. However, since CGRP is used throughout the body, blocking it out completely can have side effects in a number of organs. This latest class of drugs reduce the level of CGRP without blocking out production altogether.
Competing researchers from four different pharmaceutical companies- Alder Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, Eli Lilly and Company and Teva Pharmaceuticals- are testing their own versions of CGRP monoclonal antibodies. These companies presented their results at the American Headache Society meeting with Teva reporting that the drug achieved a significant reduction in the number of headache hours after a week, with more than half the patients in the group experiencing at least a 50% reduction in headache frequency. Amgen reported that half of the treated patients had fewer migraine days after 12 weeks. Lilly reported that the drug could prevent migraines when compared to a placebo. Although Alder Pharmaceuticals didn’t present any new findings at the meeting, their phase II trial showed promising results.
Dr. Peter Goadsby of the University of California, San Francisco, who’s been testing some of the drugs said, “The potential of these new compounds is enormous and gives us real hope that effective specific treatments for migraine may be on the near horizon. The development of CGRP antibodies offers the simple, yet elegant and long awaited option for migraine patients to finally be treated with migraine preventives; it’s a truly landmark development.”
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