A migraine is more than just a headache, having potentially debilitating effects on the one in five women and one in 15 men affected in the UK. But a treatment to prevent migraines could be on the horizon.
A trial of a new monthly injection, called erenumab, found the drug can significantly reduce the frequency of migraines for regular sufferers and lesson their impact when they do strike.
“Our study found that erenumab reduced the average number of monthly migraine headaches by more than 50% for nearly a third of study participants,” said study author Uwe Reuter from the University Medicine Berlin in Germany. “That reduction in migraine headache frequency can greatly improve a person’s quality of life.”
According to The Times, the injections could be available to migraine sufferers in the UK as early as next year.
[READ MORE: Migraine symptoms, causes and treatment]
The exact cause of migraines is still unknown but scientists believe the pain and sensitivity to light associated with the condition is linked to a chemical in the brain called calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP. Erenumab works by blocking the CGRP receptor in the brain.
For the study, 246 people who had regular migraines were given injections of either 140 milligrams of erenumab or a placebo once a month for three months.
Of the participants, 39% had been treated unsuccessfully with two other medications, 38% with three medications and 23% with four medications. On average, participants experienced an average of nine migraines a month and used an acute migraine drug to stop an attack five times a month.
Researchers found that after three months, the people treated with erenumab were nearly three times more likely to have reduced their migraine days by 50% or more than those treated with placebo.
A total of 30% of the people treated with erenumab had half the number of headaches compared to 14% on the placebo. Those treated with the drug also had a greater average reduction in the number of days they had headaches and the number of days they needed to take drugs to stop the migraines.
The findings follow another promising trial which found erenumab was effective in reducing the impact of migraines.
“Our results show that people who thought their migraines were difficult to prevent may actually have hope of finding pain relief,” said Reuter. “More research is now needed to understand who is most likely to benefit from this new treatment.”
The results of the study were presented at the American Academy of Neurology on Tuesday.