If you've ever suffered from a migraine, you know how painful and draining they can be — and how frustrating it is that there's currently no cure.
But thanks to a groundbreaking development, that could change. A new migraine treatment, which researchers are hailing as a "huge deal," is the first drug in 20 years that has been proven to stop migraine attacks before they happen.
In a trail that involved 1,130 patients who suffered from chronic migraines, researchers found that fremanezumab — a drug specifically designed to prevent migraines — may have helped people cut their number of migraine incidents by half per month.
According to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers split the patients into three groups: One group that received quarterly treatments of the drug, one group that received treatments once a month, and another group that received placebo shots.
At the end of the trial, 38% of those in the quarterly group experienced at least a 50% reduction in the frequency of their migraine attacks, compared to 41% of those in the monthly group, and 18% of the placebo group.
The level of response actually varied amongst patients — "We saw some patients with 100% reduction in migraine, others with 75% reduction," Stephen D. Silberstein, M.D., one of the researchers, said in a statement.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines affect an estimated 39 million people in the U.S. and one billion people worldwide. While they can share characteristics with headaches, they're much more debilitating — beyond the symptoms of a headache, migraines can also involve visual auras, increased sensitivity to light, and headaches severe enough to cause someone to miss work, school, or other activities.
This treatment could be revolutionary for migraine sufferers, but further work needs to be done to test the drug's long-term effects. As of now, the drug hasn't been FDA-approved, but researchers have high hopes.
"This therapeutic approach offers new hope for people whose migraines cannot be treated with existing medicine," Dr. Silberstein said. "If approved, this treatment would provide physicians with an important new tool to help prevent migraine, reduce a patient's migraine load, and potentially help patients return to normal."