For the First Time in Decades, a Drug for Migraines Shows Promise

By Kristen V Brown on at

A new drug, called Erenumab, has shown promise in preventing migraine attacks, the intense headaches that chronically plague millions of adults each year in the US alone.

Erenumab is a lab-made antibody that works by blocking a neural pathway called CGRP. Data from a recent phase three reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that it cut the number of “migraine days” experienced each month by 1,000 patients to between three and four. In half of those patients, the length that the migraines lasted were reduced by at least half.

Migraines are an extremely common ailment, and recent estimates suggest they affect about one in seven adults annually. They’re a significant public health problem, contributing every year to many outpatient doctors visits as well as visits to the ER.

The phase three trial compared patients taking erenumab for six months with others given a placebo. By months four to six, there was at least a 50 percent reduction in the mean number of migraine days per month for about 43 percent of patients injected under the skin with a 70 milligram dose of erenumab each month. With a doubled dose, half of patients saw similar results. More than a quarter of those on the placebo, though, also experienced benefits.

Placebo effects are common in studies related to pain, including migraines. Whether the drug ultimately passes muster with the FDA will depend on whether the agency views the benefits as robust enough, and in enough people. Either way, though, the drug points to an important avenue of research to explore for a terrible condition that impacts millions each year. [New England Journal of Medicine]


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