FDA approves 'game-changing' drug to prevent migraines

Aimovig is a monthly injection that can prevent migraines. The medicine was just approved by the FDA to treat millions of Americans who suffer from the disabling headaches. (Image source: Amgen and Novartis)

A first-of-its-kind drug will soon be available to help people with crippling headaches. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved monthly injections that experts say can prevent migraines. For millions of Americans the drug, Aimovig, could make a life-changing difference.

Turning on the lights can trigger a migraine. It can also amplify the pain after it's begun. One 25-year-old patient has tried everything to deal with the headaches and nothing has worked.

"It's really hard for me to get up in the morning and I had to drop out of school. It's really difficult to live," said Sophie.

But relief may be coming. Aimovig, made by Amgen and Novartis, was approved by the FDA last week. It's being called a game-changer by doctors who treat migraine sufferers.

"This is the first drug that's ever come out specifically for migraines," said Dr. Stephanie Vertrees, Director of the Headache Clinic at Baylor Scott & White Health.

Aimovig is a monthly injection. It blocks a receptor, CGRP, that not only triggers migraines but can make them last for hours or even days.

"It's a big misconception that a migraine is just a headache. It's really a lot more than that. It's a headache plus," said Dr. Vertrees.

Dr. Vertrees says the worst sufferers have migraines that cause nausea, dizziness and extreme sensitivity to noise and light.

"They can't look at a computer screen. They can't look at a television. They can't stand next to a window. They have to have blackout curtains in their home and they can't leave their homes," said Dr. Vertrees.

The new drug doesn't prevent all migraines but clinical trials show that it cuts the number of attacks in half and makes them less severe. For Sophie that would be life-changing.

"My hope is that I'll just have a normal life and be able to function and have a job and go to school and be a part of the world again," said Sophie.

The monthly injections are expected to cost $6,900 a year. Despite the high price tag, some Austin doctors say they already have waiting lists for the drug that might be available as soon as next month.

In short clinical trials, people taking the drug reported no more side effects than those taking a placebo. However, the drug's long-term safety has not been tested.

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