Here’s Everything We Know About the FDA’s First Approved Chronic Migraine Drug, Including Its Shocking Cost
If you live with chronic migraines, you’ll want to hear this: The FDA recently approved the first of four drugs used to treat chronic migraines. But before you hop in your car and speed off to the doctor, you might want to learn a little more about it, including its hefty cost.
Read on to learn more about what this new miracle drug can do, but check out page 5 to see just how much you’d be spending on it. Plus, find out the risks on pages 6 and 7.
Chronic migraines affect nearly 40 million Americans
A migraine is a recurring, throbbing headache that can leave you totally out of commission for a few days. The headache is usually on one side of the head. And nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision are common migraine symptoms, as well. Migraines affect nearly 40 million people throughout the United States. And recently, the FDA approved a new drug that could help those with chronic migraines finally live a migraine-free (or migraine-reduced) life.
Next: This new drug could be the answer to preventing migraines.
The new drug Aimovig aims to prevent migraines
Aimovig was designed to target a specific protein fragment produced in nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. According to WebMD, it targets the fragment known as CGRP, which is directly related to the amount of pain someone feels when they have a migraine. By blocking CGRP, it stops the pain that comes with migraines.
Next: Here’s how the drug blocks the pain.
The drug ‘dials down’ the pain, rather than prevents it
When someone has a migraine, they have elevated levels of CGRP in their blood. And while the protein fragment does not trigger migraines, it does increase the volume of pain someone feels when they have one. “[CGRP] makes the nerve cells more sensitive to pain input,” Dr. Stephen Silberstein, director of the Jefferson University headache center in Philadelphia, told WebMD. Essentially, if a drug can block CGRP, then it can lower the volume of the pain. And that’s what Aimovig does.
Next: Patients reported a serious reduction in “migraine days” throughout the month.
It cut down ‘migraine days’ by as many as 2.5 days per month for some patients
Researchers conducted three separate studies that the FDA evaluated for approval. In the studies, patients had their migraine days reduced by anywhere from one day to 2.5 days in a month. Migraine days are known as debilitating days where it’s difficult to function due to the migraine. The tests lasted anywhere from three to six months, and patients reported significant improvement.
Next: But the shocking cost could deter both patients and insurance companies.
The drug costs about $575 per month, or $6,900 per year
While this drug might sound like a miracle, its cost is definitely something to consider. For those who deal with migraines regularly, paying yearly for the medication could cost nearly $7,000. The drug is administered monthly in the form of a shot, similar to an insulin pen. And according to The New York Times, the high price of the drug raises the question of how willing insurers will be to pay for it.
Next: The risks are not well-known.
And the risks are not fully understood
Besides the cost, other downsides include the various risk factors that are still unknown to researchers. Because the testing only went on for a few years, the long-term effects of the drug remain to be seen. CGRP is found in other parts of the body, such as the kidneys, pancreas, adrenal glands, and bones. WebMD reports these organs could be affected in ways we don’t know yet. Plus, there is the potential for high blood pressure down the road, according to researchers.
Next: This group of people could have more serious side effects than others.
Pregnant woman may be at the highest risk while taking the drug
WebMD also notes that women who are pregnant could be at a greater risk for side effects than others. That’s because pregnant women have lower CGRP than normal, which sometimes leads to high blood pressure. Reducing the CGRP even more could trigger high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can potentially be dangerous for both the mother and baby. But there is no definitive study to prove or disprove that yet.
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