New Drugs Could Help Prevent Migraine Headaches for Some People

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People who experience frequent migraines may soon have access to a new class of drugs.

In a pair of large studies, two drugs that tweak brain circuits involved in migraine each showed they could reduce the frequency of attacks without causing side effects, researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“They offer the first migraine treatment that’s actually aimed at the disorder,” says Peter Goadsby, an author of one of the studies and a professor of neurology at King’s College in London.

Current migraine prevention treatments consist primarily of drugs designed to treat high blood pressure, epilepsy and depression. “We give [patients] a choice between a beta blocker where they’ll feel tired, or we tell them they can go on an antidepressant, which will make them sleepy and put on weight,” Goadsby says.

The new drugs use special antibodies to dampen a system in the brain that modulates pain. The effect is a bit like soundproofing, says Stephen Silberstein, a study author and director of the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia.

“You have a kid next door making a lot of noise, you put in soundproofing and all of a sudden you’re quiet,” Silberstein says. “That’s what the antibodies do. They prevent the noise from aggravating the system.”

The idea is to prevent the full range of migraine symptoms including headache, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Silberstein’s study gave monthly or quarterly injections of an antibody called fremanezumab to more than 700 patients who have chronic migraines. “These patients are having almost daily attacks and they’re greatly impaired by it,” he says.

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SOURCE: NPR, Jon Hamilton