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Migraines are notoriously difficult to treat and even harder to prevent. For many migraine patients, it feels like a losing battle, even more so for patients who suffer from severe, chronic migraines. But a revolutionary new group of drugs just approved by the FDA offers new hope not just in the treatment of migraines, but in their prevention.
Scientists know that a substance in the body called calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP, is linked to migraines. When migraine patients are exposed to certain triggers like stress, changes in hormones, or certain chemicals, the blood vessels in the brain dilate, or expand, causing the pain associated with migraines. The dilated blood vessels then activate a nerve called the trigeminal nerve, which sends pain signals to the brain, causing a release of CGRP. The release of CGRP intensifies the dilation of the blood vessels, which makes the pain of a migraine worse. This cycle repeats itself when a migraine patient is exposed to migraine triggers.
Although there are many migraine drug treatments available already, the new class of medications just approved by the FDA is revolutionary in that it specifically targets CGRP to prevent migraines before they start, decreasing the number of migraine attacks. These are also the first drugs that have been approved specifically for the treatment of migraines; previous drug therapies were designed for the treatment of other conditions and were incidentally found to have therapeutic effects for migraines.
There are three new drugs that the FDA has approved:
The drugs are called monoclonal antibodies because they use a clone of a type of immunoglobulin, an antibody that inhibits, or blocks, the action of other chemicals. The drug Aimovig works by binding itself to the CGRP receptor, which prevents CGRP from having any effect when released. Similarly, Ajovy and Emgality work by blocking CGRP from binding to its receptors. There's other good news for migraine patients: the drugs metabolize differently in the body and, based on clinical trials, are known to have fewer side effects and adverse interactions with other drugs. This means that your current regimen won't necessarily be disrupted, and that the drugs can be used in conjunction with other treatments.
Ultimately, this is exciting news for migraine patients. The FDA is celebrating the approval of these new drugs as a breakthrough in the ongoing battle for more powerful and effective migraine treatments.
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