For the  36 million people in the U.S. who suffer from migraines, prevention and treatment is a huge problem. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, only half of all migraine sufferers receive a formal diagnosis of their condition and, of those, only 4% seek medical care from a certified pain specialist.

A challenge of preventing migraines is that there is, simply, no cure for prevention or complete treatment. 

The National Institutes of Health currently only spends 0.03% of their annual budget on migraine research. While we have some treatments with moderate use for preventing migraines,  many of these are medications that were developed to treat other conditions. Therefore, there are many side effects that can discourage use. Dr. Peter Goadsby, a neurologist at the University of California, writes in a recent WebMD article:

Right now, the drugs used to prevent migraines are all older medications that were originally developed to treat other conditions. They include certain antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, and anti-seizure drugs.

Even when used as advised, preventative (or prophylactic) medications normally only reduce migraine headache frequency by half in only 40% of patients, notes the American Migraine Foundation. These are sobering statistics, but fortunately, researchers are beginning to increase their focus on dedicated migraine treatments.

A recent presentation at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting provides evidence of 2 new experimental drugs that just may help prevent migraine headaches. 

By targeting a protein in the body that has been implicated in triggering migraines–a protein called the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)–these medications have been shown to be effective in curbing the frequency of migraines. The 2 drugs were given in the form of IV drugs or injections to a test group of 163 and 217 patients, respectively.

After taking the medications and comparing the results against a placebo group, researchers found a:

  • 66% reduction in “migraine days” 5 to 8 weeks after a single dose of the IV drug
  • 63% reduction in “migraine days” for patients taking the injection drug biweekly for 3 months

While there were slightly better results for the IV drug, researchers acknowledge that going to the doctor for an IV may be prohibitive, while a course of injections could be easier on patients. They note that there is still much research to be done on this method of preventing migraines. Questions include how long the effects of the medication last and how often it would need to be given. Researchers are also testing for any long-term adverse side-effects of taking the medication.

As Dr. Goadsby writes in the same article, however:

Migraine sufferers can “take heart” that new drugs, specific to the pain condition are under development.

Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do you take any medications for preventing your migraines? 

Image by Jay Aremac via Flickr

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