The Food and Drug Administration approved in May the first drug designed to prevent migraines. For those who suffer from the condition regularly, the possibility of some relief looks to be a big deal.
Since the announcement, the phone at the Novant Health Headache Clinic - Union Cross in Kernersville, North Carolina, has hardly stopped ringing with patients wanting to try the new medication, said Dr. Lollie Hagen, a neurologist and headache specialist at the clinic.
The new drug, Aimovig — the first in a new class of drugs to be approved by the FDA — is given by monthly self-injections, similar to an insulin pen.
“This is very exciting news,” Hagen said. “This is the first treatment approved specifically for the reason of treating migraines. All medications that we have previously used for patients were designed for other conditions (like high blood pressure) and we noted they helped migraine patients but we haven’t completely understood why.”
Nearly 1 in 4 households nationally — or 37 million people — include someone who has migraines. Migraines are three times more common in women than in men and affects more than 10 percent of people worldwide.
The new class of drugs that include the one approved this month work by blocking the activity of calcitonin gene-related peptide, a molecule that is involved in migraine attacks. The most common side effects that patients in clinical trials reported were injection site reactions and constipation.
Dr. David Gordon, a headache specialist at Novant Health Neurology and Sleep in Charlotte, said the new medication will be available by June.
"The medication works for about 30 to 40 percent of patients who use it," Gordon said in a TV news interview with WCNC-TV. "They get at least 50 to 75 percent better.” The New York Times reported the list cost at $6,900 a year. Patients will need to consult their physicians and insurer for information on coverage.
Hagen, meanwhile, said the drug company has also announced a coupon program for patients who qualify — possibly making the cost only $5 per month. She also said the price is lower than Botox, a drug currently prescribed for migraines but better known for its ability to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and used for other types of treatments, as well.
She said about 70 percent of her patients with migraines are women and that while most of her patients are in their reproductive years, she sees patients ranging in age from 5 to 95. While children can get migraines, the new drug is only approved for adult patients.