Millions of people across the globe suffer from migraines, and the struggle of going through it is tormenting. A significant portion of migraine sufferers relies on general analgesics for relief from pain. A new study by scientists from Monash University has demonstrated the superior effectiveness of a drug known as Erenumab in providing relief to chronic sufferers.
According to the study, Erenumab, a migraine drug that is still largely inaccessible to most patients due to its high cost, was found to reduce the number of 'migraine' attack days every month by half in over 55 percent of the participants. It was found to be a well-tolerated migraine therapy among complex patients in real-world settings.
"Our analysis has supported Erenumab as an effective and well‐tolerated migraine preventative therapy for patients with chronic migraine who have failed many preventative therapies," the authors wrote.
Nasty Headaches and A Miracle Drug
Migraine is a headache disorder. Headache disorders are some of the most widespread forms of disorders of the nervous system. According to the WHO, it is estimated that among nearly 50 percent of the global adult population, there is a prevalence of headache disorders—where symptoms have been experienced at least once within the year. A migraine is characterized by spells of headache whose severity varies from moderate to intense.
It is often one-sided and is a pulsating pain. It can last up to three days (with the frequency being between one a year to once a week) and can be worsened by regular physical activity. Migraines begin at puberty and affect individuals between the ages of 35-45 years the most. It is a result of the triggering of a mechanism deep within the brain that promotes the release of pain-causing inflammatory compounds around the blood vessels and the nerves of the head.
Erenumab is sold under the brand name Aimovig. It is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that targets a human protein called calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CRLR) that is a receptor for Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which plays an important role in the development and progression of migraines. It is available in two doses—70 mg and 140 mg—and is required to be administered through subcutaneous injections every month. However, being priced at approximately $600 for 70 mg/month and $1,200 for 140 mg/month may keep it out of reach of most chronic sufferers.
Highly Effective Against Migraines
The study involved 170 patients who suffered from recurrent and severe migraine attacks across three specialist headache centers in Australia and was conducted between October 2018 to April 2020. The participants were divided into two groups—'product familiarization' and 'paid access' group—where the average age was 46 years and 90 percent of the participants were females.
In the 'product familiarisation group', the participants were prescribed Erenumab by a pain physician or neurologist at no cost due to the severity of the condition. These were who relied heavily on analgesic medications or have undergone failed therapies to alleviate their condition, and were likely to not be included in conventional drug trials. The 'paid access' group consisted of patients who could afford the drug on a payment program after a three-month free trial following a three-month free trial.
It was found that after receiving a prescription for Erenumab, in 58.8 percent of the participants, the number of 'migraine attack' days each month had nearly halved after three months. The result was consistent at six months, 50 percent of the study population experiencing half the number of days with a migraine that they had at baseline.
Potential Affordable Alternatives
While the study provides promising evidence of Erenumab's effectiveness, its cost is a hurdle in its accessibility, the researchers admitted. "We are hopeful that two other treatments in this class may be available at an affordable price for patients soon," said Dr. Elspeth Hutton, lead author of the study, in a statement.
These two drugs are Galcanezumab (Emgality) and Fremanezumab (Ajovy), which are very similar to Erenumab but are affordable. "These drugs represent a significant advance in migraine care, and with many patients describing them as 'life-changing', they bring new hope to many living with migraine disease," concluded Dr. Hutton.