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New Class of Drugs Prevent Migraines and Offer Hope

Saturday June 20, 2015    10:50 AM

A new class of drugs shows promise in stopping migraines before they start. The drugs have cut the number of migraines in half among more than 50% of patients in clinical trials — and prevented all headaches for 10% of them.

The drugs target a particular chemical in the body — calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). The chemical helps control blood vessels and plays a role in transmitting pain signals to the brain. Scientists believe CGRP contributes to causing migraines.

The new drugs use something called monoclonal antibodies — made from proteins in the immune system — to reduce the levels of CGRP in the body. The idea is to disrupt the pain messages that CGRP carries to the brain.

Four companies – Alder Pharmaceuticals, Amgen, Eli Lilly and Company, and Teva Pharmaceuticals – have been conducting separate trials and each have reported similar results.

CGRP-blocking drugs are already used to treat a migraine in progress, but these new drugs are the first that would prevent them by targeting the chemical before the headache begins. "The potential of these new compounds is enormous and gives us real hope that effective specific treatments for migraine may be on the near horizon," Dr. Peter Goadsby of the University of California, San Francisco, told NBC News.

Monoclonal antibodies can be expensive, and the researchers have no idea yet how much the drug will cost or how often patients may have to take it.

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