By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A new drug is offering hope to migraine sufferers.

“When I have a migraine, it starts at the base of my skull. It’ll radiate around the front of my head, and then it will also radiate down into my shoulders,” Mandy Grogan, a migraine sufferer, said.

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Grogan’s migraines come with the classic symptoms.

“Sensitivity to light, fluorescent lighting in the office. Numbness, tingling in my fingers,” she said.

She uses herbal supplements to try to prevent them, and – when that doesn’t work – takes medicine to get rid of them. In the grand scheme of migraines, Mandy’s one of the lucky ones.

“Things don’t work for everyone,” says Dr. Glenn Burkett, an Allegheny Health Network headache specialist.

He prescribes anti-inflammatory medicines for his migraine patients, and also drugs called triptans, which are not always ideal.

“One of the side effects that we see with the triptans is that they can cause a little bit of vasoconstriction, meaning that the blood vessels can slightly clamp down. In patients who have cardiovascular risk factors, maybe they have heart disease, maybe they’ve had a stroke, the triptans are not a good choice.”

The FDA has now approved a new migraine drug, called Reyvow.

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“Those patients that are maybe cardiovascularly not a great candidate for the triptans, this might be something we try a little sooner,” Dr. Burkett says.

Similar to triptans, the drug works at serotonin receptors. These are all through your body, which is why some people taking triptans can have effects on their blood vessels. But Reyvow works at a subset of of serotonin receptors — in the brain.

In two trials, more than 3,000 adults with a history of migraines took Reyvow. In both studies, the percentages of patients whose pain or other migraine symptoms got better within two hours of taking Reyvow were significantly greater than those given a placebo.

So far, the main side effect is drowsiness.

“You really wouldn’t want to be operating any kind of heavy machinery, or go driving after you take that,” Dr. Burkett cautions. He says it’s nice to have another option to offer patients. “There will certainly be a subset of patients who have tried some of the other things and just haven’t found the success that they need.”

But he admits:

“It won’t necessarily be first line.”

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However, he says if Reyvow can cut the severity of a patient’s migraine symptoms in half, he’d call it a success.