Two new drugs for migraine to be used in Spain

Something more than 10% of the population suffers migraines occasionally and slightly less than 3% chronically. Of these, only in Spain about one million people suffer more than 15 days a month an intense and disabling headache that is sometimes accompanied by nausea, visual disturbances or numbness. And yet, so far, many of the treatments to combat the ailment were preventive medications originally created to treat other problems such as hypertension or depression that were later found useful against headaches. From last month, in the Spanish hospitals two new drugs created specifically to block migraine can be administered.

These two drugs are monoclonal antibodies, the kind doctors use in the treatment of cancer. As if they were pieces of a puzzle, they block the activity of the molecules that cause the problem, as do the antibodies generated by the body to stop viruses or bacteria. In the case of migraine, or at least in many of them, during the attacks there is an increase in a neuropeptide, the CGRP, which is related to the condition. The new drugs block the fit of that molecule with the cells with different mechanisms and reduce the number of episodes by 50% or more.

The approval of these drugs at the state level since November 1 must now be ratified by the autonomous communities and finally it will depend on the hospitals to decide which patients will be eligible to receive the new medications. Inicially, all patients won´t receive the new drugs. Both the erenumab, and the galcanezumab will only be covered by public health for patients who suffer more than 8 monthly attacks, and having tried at least 3 conventional treatments. The price of the new drugs is near 500 Euros.

Despite being a very frequent disease and that is, according to WHO, the sixth cause of years lived with disabilities worldwide, experts believe that there is no awareness about its effects and the possibilities of treating it. Dr. Patricia Pozo-Rosich recalls that in a 2007 study they calculated that «only 25% of people suffering from migraine go to the doctor». Only in Spain, consults about headaches are the main cause for patients to attend to neurology service, with 14,000 monthly. Of those who go to the doctor for treatment for the first time, only 25% return.

Pozo-Rosich, who participated in the Emgality trials, notes that new drugs are a tool that can help many patients for whom current treatments do not work. But she points out that there are also treatments already available, which have shown their effectiveness by reducing the burden of migraine and with rare adverse effects, such as Botox, which are not used as much as possible. «For the amount of migraines there is, Botox has a low market share, which can partly be explained because there are few doctors to detect the problem and give the treatment, but also by how this disease is lived», she says.

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