New migraine drug reduces painful headaches in hard-to-treat cases

MINNEAPOLIS — A new drug could help prevent migraines for those with difficult-to-treat cases. Researchers working with the American Academy of Neurology explain that while some people can treat their migraines with drugs already on the market, many others find these medicines ineffective. The new drug called atogepant could be the solution.

People who took atogepant found they had four fewer migraine days each month. They also discovered that they didn’t have to take the medication as often as those taking a placebo to stop migraine attacks.

“These results are exciting, as migraine can be debilitating, and this treatment led to fewer days with migraine for people who had already tried up to four other types of drugs to prevent migraine and either had no improvement or had side effects that outweighed any benefits,” says study author Patricia Pozo-Rosich, MD, PhD, at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in a media release.

Atogepant is a calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor antagonist, or CGRP inhibitor. CGRP is a protein that plays a key role in starting the migraine process. A migraine is often a moderate or severe headache felt on one side of the head. People experiencing a migraine can also feel nauseous and become more sensitive to light or sound.

“In 2018, women were nearly twice as likely as men to have had a severe headache or migraine in the past 3 months (20.1% versus 10.6%),” according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stressed or sick woman in pain or suffering from headache
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The drug cuts down headache days but comes with side-effects

The new research involved 309 people who had at least four migraine days during the month before the study. Each participant tried at least two classes of drugs for preventing migraine without improvement. Of those, 44 percent had previously taken three or more classes of preventive drugs with no success.

For the study, half the participants took 60 milligrams of atogepant once a day in pill form and the other half took a placebo for 12 weeks. After taking the drug, patients had an average of four fewer days with migraine per month, while those taking the placebo only had around two fewer days.

While the results are promising, the drug may not be perfect, as it comes with a few side-effects. One of the most common one is constipation, which occurred in 10 percent of those taking atogepant and three percent of those taking the placebo. Nausea was also common, with seven percent of those taking the drug suffering from sickness.

“People who thought they may not find a way to prevent and treat their migraines may have hope of finding relief with a tolerable oral easy-to-use drug,” Pozo-Rosich concludes. “This treatment was safe, well-tolerated and effective for people with difficult-to-treat migraine.”

Study authors are presenting this research at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Boston.

South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.

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