A new drug which is designed for the prevention of migraines may transform the lives of sufferers.
The drug works in the same way as an antibody, by attacking the chemical in the body which is thought to be the reason for the events leading to a migraine.
Almost eight million people are affected by migraines in the UK. The condition causes a severe headache, with some sufferers experiencing visual symptoms, such as flashing lights, known as aura. Other symptoms include fatigue and nausea.
Migraines may be triggered by bright lights, specific smells, weather changes or hormonal changes, however the exact cause has not been determined.
It was previously thought that the aura was caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain, and that the resultant headache was due to the sudden widening of the blood vessels.
Researchers believe that migraine is the result of alteration in the brain itself and that the changes which occur in blood flow happen afterwards.
Treatments include antidepressants, beta blockers and anticonvulsants. Some of these treatment options are often used as preventative measures, but were not developed specifically for migraines, hence its success rate varies greatly.
The new treatment method is the first of its kind designed specifically for migraines. It targets a chemical named calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) which brain nerve ending release, resulting in the widening of blood vessels and the passing on of pain signals.
Those who suffer with migraines appear to have increased levels of CGRP and this is thought to trigger changes and inflammation in the brain’s lining.
The treatment acts as an antibody to CGRP by attaching to its receptors which blocks its effects. Researchers have tested two forms of the treatment and both have been successful in reducing migraine attacks.
The first treatment, ALD403, was used during clinical trials at King’s College London and the University of California. It involved 160 people who suffered migraines up to 14 days per month. The patients were given a single intravenous drug dosage or a placebo.
The results for the first three months of the trial indicated that 33% experienced a 50% decline in the number of days each month they suffered migraines, and 16% experience a 100% decline. Some of those in the placebo group experienced reductions, such as 9% had a 75% decline, but none of them experienced a 100% decline.
The trial involving the second drug, LY2951742, involved 217 participants who also suffered migraines for around 14 days each month. Each of these patients received drug injections two times per week, or a placebo for a period of 12 weeks.
The researchers based at the Mayo Clinic in the US found that 33% of the patients taking the drug experienced no attacks. The ones on a placebo had at most a 17% decline in the number of attacks.
Professor of Neurology at King’s College London, Dr Peter Goadsby, said this new approach could be a breakthrough as it is the first time a treatment specially designed for migraines has been tested.
Larger studies of the drug are being planned.
Image Credit: Brian