A second wave of relief may come soon for people suffering from migraines.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new drug that can significantly reduce the frequency of migraine.
It is called Ajovy (fremanezumab) and is made by Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Ajovy is taken once a month or quarterly by injection, but it could cost you between $ 575 (monthly) and $ 1,725 (quarterly) per dose.
This is the second new medication for migraine approved by the FDA this year. In May, the agency gave the green light to Aimovig, a medication designed to stop headaches before they start.
A painfully common ailment
According to some estimates, migraine is the third most common disease in the world.
It is more common than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined, according to The Migraine Trust.
Almost 15 percent of the world’s population experiences these headaches.
In addition, chronic migraine is experienced by almost 2 percent of the world’s population. It is among the top 10 causes of disability.
The pain can last from hours to days at a time.
According to Dr. Howie Zheng, a neurologist at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland, migraine is more than just a headache.
People with the condition may experience disabling symptoms, such as difficulty speaking, aversion to light and noise, nausea and vomiting.
Zheng adds that chronic migraine (eight attacks or more per month) disproportionately affects women.
“This could be due to the monthly hormonal changes.” These attacks can occur around your monthly period, during pregnancy and also during menopause, “Zheng told Healthline.
Anyone who experiences migraines regularly discovers that different things can trigger an attack. The common triggers are caffeine, stress and very little sleep.
However, some migraines can be caused by changes in brain chemistry or abnormal brain activity, while there is even a type of migraine that occurs in families.
New type of drug
Ajovy is a new class of medication called peptide antibody treatment related to the anti-calcitonin gene (anti-CGRP).
Like Aimovig, it is designed to prevent migraines.
“Ajovy is part of a new class of CGRP blocking drugs that act on a completely new mechanism than previous treatments. CGRP is a protein fragment that can initiate and even prolong migraine episodes. It has been shown that blocking it reduces the frequency of migraine, “Zheng said.
According to recent research, when CGRP is released, it can cause severe inflammation in the covers of the brain (meninges). For many people who experience migraines, this is what causes an attack.
Currently, there are two other anti-CGRP drugs in development: galcanezumab, manufactured by Lilly, and eptinezumab, manufactured by Alder BioPharmaceuticals.
Although anti-CGRP medications will not prevent all migraine attacks, they can reduce their frequency by up to 50 percent.
Headaches can get worse
According to the non-profit Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), patients who surveyed for a review of migraine medications often discontinued or changed treatments due to their lack of effectiveness or tolerability .
ICER reports that without proper treatment, patients with episodic migraines are more likely to develop chronic migraine.
These treatments included antidepressants, medications for hypertension and anticonvulsant medications. They came with side effects such as cognitive impairment, sedation, weight gain, dry mouth and sexual dysfunction.
However, according to Zheng, “clinical trials show that this new class of drugs has no more side effects than a placebo. The most serious problem that patients developed, according to the trial, was irritation at the injection site. ”
Effects of long-term use
The CGRP plays a role in keeping the organs provided with sufficient oxygen when the blood flow is interrupted by a stroke or a heart attack.
It dilates the blood vessels and is also important for regulating blood pressure and wound healing.
Blocking CGRP in the long term could interfere with these important processes, something that is not yet known about this new class of drugs.
With any medication that has been studied for a short time with carefully selected patients, it is necessary to be cautious.
For example, experts recommend that women who use this class of medication do not become pregnant until the substance is removed from their body, a process that can take several weeks.
Ajovy is expensive, but there’s help
While the annual cost of taking Ajovy is approximately $ 7,000 per year, this will generally be covered if you are insured by a state or federal insurance program.
Migraine patients with commercial insurance subject to co-payments can visit the drug manufacturer’s website and register to obtain a discount card.
This discount offer can cover up to 100 percent of your out-of-pocket costs.