On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale and use of the first drug ever to treat chronic migraines.
The drug is called Aimovig, and it’s made by Amgen and Novartis. It’s a monthly injection that a user can administer by themselves, as it works similarly to an insulin pen, the New York Times explained. It will cost users about $6,900 a year without insurance.
“The drugs will have a huge impact,” Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist and migraine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, told the Times. “This is really an amazing time for my patient population and for general neurologists treating patients with migraine.”
According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraines affect up to 12 percent of the population.
Chronic migraine, according to the International Headache Society, is defined as “headache occurring on 15 or more days per month for more than three months, which, on at least eight days per month, has the features of migraine headache.” Chronic migraine, specifically, affects approximately one percent of the population.
Aimovig will not prevent all migraine attacks, but it can make them much less severe and reduce their frequency by 50 percent, the Times explained — though that may be more than enough for anyone suffering from these debilitating headaches.
According to the Mayo Clinic, migraines can cause “severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on just one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can cause “significant pain for hours to days, and can be so severe that the pain is disabling.”
Unlike current migraine treatments, Aimovig also appears to come with little or no side effects. According to Time, side effects reported by study participants included colds and respiratory infections. In the clinical trials of Aimovig, those participants actually taking the drug reported no more side effects than those taking a placebo. However, the long term side effects of the medication have yet to be determined.
If medication isn’t your thing, a growing body of scientific work is proving that regular exercise can also prevent migraines from ever happening in the first place. In 2015, a Swedish study showed that migraine patients had fewer headaches after performing a 40-minute cycling workout three times a week for three months. At the time, the study noted that the physical routine worked just as well as topamirate – one of the leading migraine-preventing drugs — but without the nasty side effects of depression, tremors, and cognitive impairment.
Aimovig is still expected to be a big hit. As Robin Overlock, a clinical trial participant, noted to the Times, she went from having 27 migraine days a month to just two.
“It’s definitely life changing,” she said.
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