The first medicine designed to prevent migraines was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Many experts believe that this drug will help a huge number of people suffering from the most severe form of headaches.
The drug, Aimovig, made by Amgen and Novartis, is a monthly injection with a device similar to an insulin pen.
Aimovig blocks a protein fragment, CGRP, that instigates and perpetuates migraines. Three other companies – Lilly, Teva and Alder – have similar medicines in the final stages of study or awaiting FDA approval.
When investigators infused CGRP into people prone to migraines, they got headaches. When they gave the molecule to people who do not get migraines, it usually did not instigate one.
That was a pivotal finding, said Dr. Robert Conley, global development leader for migraine therapeutics at Lilly. It meant that blocking some but not all CGRP might prevent headaches without interfering with its normal functions in the body.
Companies began developing small molecules to block CGRP, but they turned out to be too toxic to use as drugs. So, researchers turned to antibodies, which work differently. Aimovig blocks the molecule on the surface of the cell, thereby interfering with the development of migraine.