‘Life-Changing’ Drug To Prevent Migraines Has Been Approved
Thousands of NHS patients will be able to benefit from a ‘life changing’ drug which has been recommended for preventing chronic migraines.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its final draft guidance for the drug, called fremanezumab, today, March 12, ‘opening the way for up to 10,000 people to receive it on the NHS in England’.
The drug is taken as a monthly self-administered injection and will initially be given to adults who suffer from chronic migraines and who have tried three other treatments with no success.
The Migraine Trust, which offers support for sufferers and promotes research into migraines, defines chronic migraines as when a person experiences fifteen or more headache days per month, including having a migraine on eight or more of those days.
Clinical evidence cited by NICE shows fremanezumab, also known as Ajovy, works better than best supportive care, ‘which usually consists of acute treatments for migraine symptoms’, for preventing chronic migraine.
The drug costs around £5,000 per year at its list price, but it has been made available thanks to a discount offered by creator Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes it a cost-effective use of NHS resources.
Meindert Boysen, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at NICE, commented on the approval, saying:
Chronic migraines are extremely debilitating and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life.
We are pleased that the company has been able to work with us to address the concerns highlighted in the previous draft guidance so that we are now able to recommend fremanezumab as an option for people with chronic migraine when several other medications have failed.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown, though they’re thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain, according to the NHS.
Symptoms associated with migraines can be the result of proteins that cause blood vessels in the brain to swell. Fremanezumab works by targeting and blocking this process. The aim of the treatment is to ‘reduce the frequency, severity or the length of time a migraine lasts and improve quality of life’.
Current treatments to prevent migraines include botulinum toxin type A, beta-blockers, antidepressants and epilepsy medications. However, experts who gave evidence to NICE said these treatments can have significant side-effects and are not always effective.
The Migraine Trust released a statement saying it ‘warmly welcome[d]’ the announcement.
Chief Executive Gus Baldwin commented:
We are delighted that for the first time chronic migraine patients across England and Wales will be able to access an effective drug on the NHS that has been specifically designed to prevent migraine attacks. Migraine is a painful, debilitating and exhausting brain disease and it is vital that people living with this awful condition have access to the best treatments available.
We would also like to thank Teva for reaching an agreement with NICE that will allow more patients across the UK to access this drug. We’re now calling on the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to follow suit and endorse this guidance without delay so eligible migraine patients across the whole of the UK can access it.
Patients who took the drug as part of the study that informed the approval described how their lives have changed ‘beyond recognition’ thanks to its effects.
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