A migraine is a highly disabling neurological disease, which is often mistaken for a simple headache. Migraine is ranked as the seventh most disabling disease in the world, and is the leading cause of disability among all neurological disorders.
Migraines affect around 14% of the world’s population.
Chronic sufferers face at least fifteen attacks per month, all of which continue for a three month period or longer. Symptoms often include a severe headache, nausea and or vomiting, sensitivity to light, noise and smells, loss of appetite, dizziness, fatigue and visual blind spots, or light flashes.
The condition can seriously impact working life. 90% of those affected by migraines are required to take time out of work to manage their symptoms, often on a regular basis. The overall economic impact of the migraine in Europe is estimated at around 27 billion euros per year.
Although the exact causes of migraines are not exactly understood, it has been shown that when an migraine attack happens, the levels of the neuropeptide (a type of molecule) related to the calcitonin gene (CGRP), rapidly increases in the the bloodstream. It is understood that neuropeptide binds to the receptor of this gene and this is what triggers pain associated with a migraine.
The Ministry of Health in Spain is now funding two new drugs that are understood to effectively block the migraine process and reduce symptoms. Public health funding for these new drugs will be a relief for over 1.5 million people in Spain, who according to the Spanish Society of Neurology are believed to suffer from chronic migraines.
An effective duo
The first of the new drugs is erenumab (also know by the name Aimovig), a monoclonal antibody developed by a multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis. This medicine works by blocking the calcitonin neuropeptide receptor (CGRP). The second drug, galcanezumab is a humanised monoclonal antibody, developed by American pharmaceutical company Lilly. Galcanezumab directly blocks CGRP.
Both are believed to reduce migraine symptoms by over 50%.
Dr. Sonia Santos Lasaosa, head of the Headache Unit at the Hospital Clínico Universitario Lozano Blesa, Zaragoza, states that, "Unlike current oral preventive treatments, which often have a low level of positive response and in some cases can cause particularly disabling side effects, this new drug offers an effective treatment with few and mostly mild adverse effects."
71.4% of patients involved in the clinical trials for the drugs were found to have migraine episodes reduced by half or more than half by the third week of treatment. Erenumab was found to reduce the frequency of migraine days per month by more than half in 40% to 50% of patients. Even more promising, long-term treatment results found that around one third of patients are now completely migraine free.