European health officials have approved the sale of the migraine-prevention drug Aimovig (erenumab), The Guardian reports today (July 31). In May, the US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for the same drug, considered a first of its kind because it blocks a receptor that plays a role in transmitting signals of migraine pain.
“Migraine is incredibly painful, and has symptoms that include vomiting and visual disturbance, so getting it frequently can literally ruin lives,” Wendy Thomas, chief executive of the Migraine Trust, tells The Guardian. “That is why it is important that [the drug] becomes available to patients as soon as possible.”
Aimovig targets the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor, and in clinical trials the compound was shown to reduce the number of days individuals suffered migraines each month. One in four patients with episodic migraine—those experiencing four to 14 migraine days per month—were migraine-free at 15 months.
“A treatment specifically designed for migraine prevention is a much welcomed innovation and could transform lives of patients for whom current therapies do not work or are not well tolerated,” Patrick Little, president of the European Migraine and Headache Alliance, said in a June 30 statement from Novartis, the company that manufactures Aimovig. In the trials, the drug was tested on migraine sufferers, including those who did not get relief from two to four other commonly used migraine treatments.
The medicine is administered with an auto-injector pen and can be taken every four weeks. In early July, it was approved for sale in Australia and then in Switzerland in mid-July. Researchers are currently working on three related drugs, which target the CGRP molecule instead of the receptor.
"When CGRP is released, outside of the brain, it causes inflammation and blood vessel dilation, Stewart Tepper, director of the Dartmouth Headache Center told CNN in May. “The blood vessels get big—and that combination of inflammation and blood vessels getting big is the pain of migraine.”
Correction (August 2): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the drug prevented symptoms in chronic migraine suffers for more than 15 months, when, in fact, it prevented symptoms in those with episodic migraines for 15 months. The Scientist regrets the error.