Have Migraines? Here’s How the Newest Medications May Help You

Learn how injectable medications can help prevent migraine onset.

young woman experiencing a migraine

Updated on May 10, 2022.

Migraines, a type of moderate-to-severe headache, affect at least 39 million Americans and more than 1 billion people around the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.

If you’ve ever experienced a migraine, you know it can be debilitating. Symptoms can include severe pulsing or throbbing pain, light or sound sensitivity, vomiting, auras, or visual problems that can include flashing lights or zigzag lines.

But there’s good news for those with migraines: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications specifically developed to prevent these often unbearable headaches. (Most other migraine drugs were originally developed for other conditions.)

One among the recent crop of drugs is Aimovig (erenumab-aooe). This monthly self-injectable was the first medication in its class, known as CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) inhibitors. Since Aimovig’s approval in 2018, there have been six similar drugs released onto the quickly expanding migraine pharmaceutical market.

How Aimovig works

Numerous studies have found Aimovig to be an effective treatment for people with chronic migraines—ones that occur 15 or more days per month—or episodic migraines, which occur four to 14 days per month. It works by blocking CGRPs, a molecule that drives painful migraine episodes.

Typically, anti-migraine medications have been used only in people without auras. The concern has been that for people who have migraines with auras, there is a potential for a stroke when using certain anti-migraine medications. Aimovig, on the other hand, can be used in people both with and without auras.

To determine Aimovig's efficacy, researchers have studied patients with chronic and episodic migraines in a number of clinical trials. A 2019 meta-analysis published in the journal Medicine included five studies of the drug that included almost 3,000 patients. In each study, some patients were given Aimovig while others were given a placebo. The drug reduced the number of monthly migraine days (when compared to placebo) by anywhere from one to 2.5 days a month. It also reduced the number of days patients needed to take migraine medications for pain relief.

The most common side effects noted (occurring in at least 3 percent of treated patients) were constipation and irritation around the injection site.

What it means for people with migraines

There are no known cures for migraines and the causes are not completely understood. For years, healthcare providers have prescribed anti-seizure, blood pressure, antidepressant, and pain-relieving drugs to reduce the number of a patient's migraines or to minimize symptoms when they do arise. They've also urged patients to address certain habits which can trigger migraines—things like stress and anxiety, hormonal changes, bright or flashing lights, lack of sleep, not eating, or eating certain foods.

“We need new treatments for this painful and often debilitating condition,” said Eric Bastings, MD, the deputy director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in the FDA’s official press release announcing its approval of Aimovig.

This new class of drugs—which also includes Ubrelvy (ubrogepant) and Nurtec ODT (Rimegepant)—are believed to be a step in the right direction, both for migraine awareness and prevention. Other drugs of different types have entered the market in recent years as well, including Trudhesa (dihydroergotamine mesylate), a nasal spray used to treat acute migraine episodes. Other types of drugs are in development as well.

Aimovig's list price is $676 per month for 70mg or 140mg at-home injections. Out-of-pocket costs will depend on your specific insurance coverage. Copay cards are available to reduce the price if you are covered under some commercial insurance plans. Aimovig needs to be stored in the refrigerator until you use it.

Article sources open article sources

Drugs.com. CGRP Inhibitors.
Zhu C, Guan J, Xioa H, Luo W, Tong R. Erenumab safety and efficacy in migraine: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(52): e18483.
National Headache Foundation. New and Emerging Migraine Medications. 2021.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA Approves Novel Preventive Treatment for Migraine. 2018.

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