A new migraine medication – one of the first bespoke drugs for decades – appears to work well even when others have failed, researchers have said.
Erenumab is a monthly injection that might soon be offered to patients on the NHS if the cost can be justified.
The latest findings presented at a US medical conference suggest it could help about a third of people with intractable migraine.
Up to four other treatments had failed to prevent their pain.
Erenumab reduced the average number of monthly migraine headaches by more than 50% for nearly a third of the people with hard-to-treat migraine who took part in the 12-week study.
The drug works differently from other preventive ones given to migraine patients. Those are “repurposed” medicines originally designed to treat other conditions, such as blood pressure and epilepsy, rather than severe headache.
Erenumab, like three other monoclonal antibody drugs also being tested by pharmaceutical companies, is tailor-made for migraine.
It takes advantage of the body’s protective immune system to block the nerve signals that cause migraine pain.
Migraine is very common – it affects one in seven British people – and can be hard to stop.
The severe throbbing pain can last for hours or days on end, making it difficult to work, rest and sleep.
Some people get nauseous and sick with it. Others also get an aura – accompanying visual symptoms, such as seeing colourful shapes or experiencing tunnel vision or blind spots.
Rachel Walls, 37, from the West Midlands, has had migraines since she was 17. For the past two decades she has tried lots of different preventive medications and therapies with no success.
She took part in the erenumab study and says her attacks are now fewer, shorter and less intense.
“I get about six or eight migraine attacks a month now, whereas before it was 12 to 15.”