PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first new class of migraine drugs to stop headaches before they even start.
“Can’t walk. I vomit, have diarrhea. Sometimes I feel like I’m unsteady. Sometimes my husband has to take me to the ER.,” says Melissa Henthorn.
She is miserable when she gets a migraine. She has tried a number of medications, all with side effects. She’s at the doctor’s office to discuss a new option, just FDA approved.
“I’m very excited actually,” she says.
It’s called Aimovig. Not something you take when you get a migraine, but a long-acting preventive drug — the first of its kind. The medicine is an antibody that keeps a protein fragment from attaching to its target. That attachment is related to pain.
“Patients actually reduced their headache frequency and severity almost in half,” says Allegheny General Hospital neurologist Dr. Dolores Santamaria.
It’s for people with more than four attacks a month. And it’s safe for people with heart, liver, and kidney problems.
Turns out, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, and anti-seizure drugs can prevent migraine, too, but these tend to have side effects. And these are daily pills.
Aimovig is a once-a-month injection. You have to wait 15 seconds for the thick medicine to go in, and there is a temporary lump at the injection site.
If you get a migraine despite the injectable preventive, you can still take something for the headache.
No small matter is the cost — nearly $7,000 a year. That’s nearly $600 per injection.
“Amgen and Novartis are going to work a little bit hard on working with commercial insurance to bring this cost to $5 per month,” says Dr. Santamaria.
Safety in pregnancy isn’t known, and because the drug is relatively new, there is no long-term information on how people do. Studies on this are ongoing.