Are you one of nearly 30 million Americans who suffer migraines? Check out 5 promising treatments.
Migraines matter, disrupting everyday routines at home and work when sufferers have to disengage from families, friends, or job responsibilities.
“Migraine is an extraordinarily common brain disorder,” says Robert Kaniecki, MD, director of the Headache Center, chief of the Headache Division, and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh. “Approximately 13 percent of American adults are affected by bouts of the disabling headache, robbing them of valuable time from work, family, home, or social activities.”
Fortunately, new and better ways to relieve and even prevent the life-disrupting attacks are on the horizon.
The first major advance in treating migraine hit the U.S. market in 1991 with FDA approval of sumatriptan (Imitrex, GlaxoSmithKline)—a revolutionary prescription drug option that not only eased migraine symptoms, but stopped the attacks.
“Over the ensuing decade, the drug class known as triptans expanded to 7 products, providing relief to millions of migraine sufferers,” explains Dr. Kaniecki. “During that same time period, two anti-epilepsy drugs, Topamax and Depakote, were also added to the short list of daily drugs with proven benefit in reducing the frequency of migraine attacks.”
Subsequent research, however, had been disappointing—until now.
“It has been nearly 20 years since significant breakthroughs have been made in treating migraine headaches,” Dr. Kaniecki continues. “But we now seem poised for a second wave of new migraine treatments. Many are novel developments while others involve technologically innovative delivery systems for older drugs. For migraineurs who fail to respond to current drug therapies, these new options are reasons for optimism.”
Dr. Sheena Aurora, director of the Swedish Headache Center and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Washington School of Medicine concurs.
“I am excited about new migraine treatments,” Dr. Aurora told the Post. “As a practicing headache specialist, I still find patients who believe that migraine comes from stress. We make them aware that migraine is a biological disorder—they are born with a hypersensitive brain—and stress is one of many triggers. Studies confirm a genetic role in migraine and genomics and proteonomics may yield highly targeted therapies. In addition, we believe that newer trials using topiramate and botulinum toxin A in chronic migraine will pave the path for future research.”
Here are 5 promising new therapies to stop migraines in their tracks that are worth keeping an eye on:
A dissolvable powder form of diclofenac (Cambia). The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, currently available in tablets, helps reduce migraine-related inflammation and pain.
The Sumavel DosePro (Zogenix). Released in 2010, the innovative device delivers needle-free injections of sumatriptan (Imitrex) by “pushing” the drug into tissue just under the skin. Subcutaneous sumatriptan is easy to use and provides consistent and fast relief, according to Dr. Aurora. Nasal and patch delivery systems for the migraine drug are still in development. Doctors already prescribe sumatriptan tablets, shots, and intranasal solution that relieve migraines by blocking painful nerve signals and restoring swollen blood vessels back to normal size.
LEVADEX, orally inhaled dihydroergotamine (MAP Pharmaceuticals). Migraine sufferers are often unable to digest oral medicines. Now in late stages of clinical testing, LEVADEX is dispensed via an oral inhaler for fast, consistent, and sustained relief of migraine pain and other symptoms. Dihydroergotamine is presently available in nasal and injectable forms.
Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) antagonist drugs. A novel class of prescription medicines may treat migraines with fewer side effects than conventional therapies by blocking the release of CGRP, a type of protein involved in nerve and blood vessel irritation during a migraine attack. The CGRP antagonist telcagepant (Merck) is in late stages of development.
Transcranial pulse generators. These electronic devices are applied to the skull early in a migraine, sometimes shortening the attack. Surgically implanted devices may generate internal electrical signals to help treat chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and migraine headaches.
Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now