Big news for migraine sufferers: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug on Thursday that will help prevent migraines. The medicine, Aimovig, is a first-of-its-kind treatment in a class of migraine-prevention drugs soon to be on the market.
Patients take Aimovig once a month through an injection similar to an insulin shot or an EpiPen. And it works by blocking calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a molecule that's involved in triggering migraine attacks. Aimovig will be available to patients starting next week at a list price of $6,900 a year, according to the FDA, and the most common side effects are irritation around the injection spot and constipation.
While this is a huge win, don't expect it to be a magical solution that ends migraines for good. Aimovig won't prevent 100% of migraines. But in clinical trials, migraine sufferers had one to two fewer migraines per month than usual.
The FDA says one to two migraines a month is about a 50% reduction, and most migraine sufferers would probably say that having even one less migraine would significantly improve their lives, because migraines aren't like any ol' headache. Migraines can last for days and involve symptoms like depression, diarrhea or constipation, neck and shoulder stiffness, blurry vision, nausea, and fatigue. While many people who don't have migraines brush them off as "just a headache," this is a condition that drastically impacts people's lives. (Plus, migraines disproportionately affect women. Go figure.)
Up until now, there weren't many preventative treatments for migraines. Migraine sufferers could try migraine medications like triptans, which are designed to alleviate migraine symptoms once they begin, as well as pain-killers like Excedrin, and holistic healing approaches like acupuncture and cannabinoid oil. But mostly, people who have migraines are asked to monitor and watch out for triggers, which can be anything from drinking a glass of wine to being a little too stressed. And migraine sufferers often have more than one trigger (on average, they have four, according to headache-data company Curelator).
While managing triggers can be helpful, preventative medications like Aimovig, and three other drugs in the final stages of study and FDA approval, are ground-breaking for people who have migraines. Doctors say these medications have the potential to change the way we treat migraines. "For now, they look fantastic," Dr. Stewart J. Tepper, a professor of neurology at Dartmouth College, told the New York Times. "They shake the ground under our feet."