A throbbing headache that stays on, nausea, immense pressure on your temples—the moment these symptoms hit you, you know that it’s a migraine attack. Millions across the world suffer from this condition. In fact, data from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, US, suggest that more than 10 percent of the world’s population are affected by migraine
An episode of migraine can last for four hours to three days continuously. Typically, this condition can start in people between ages 10 to 40. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition as of now even though getting rid of a migraine attack ASAP is what any sufferer craves for. Well, there’s good news for all who have lived with this unbearably painful condition for years.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US, has recently approved three drugs that can be used for targeted therapy of migraine. These drugs will target CGRP for reducing the number of days a person experiences migraine symptoms. CGRP, a calcitonin gene-related peptide, is a molecule found in the nerve cells of your brain and spinal cord. CGRP seems to play an important role in the development of migraine symptoms, as it is responsible for transmitting and responding to pain signals.
HOW DOES ‘TARGETED’ THERAPY WORK?
According to the research, CGRP, which has been implicated in different pain processes like migraine, functions like a vasodilator in your body. Vasodilator is a kind of medicine that relaxes blood vessels. As migraine starts, the CGRP molecule has been found to light up, signalling that migraine pain message is reaching it. Scientists have long been trying to find a way in which they can stop or change the message CGRP is sending to the brain.
These drugs approved by the FDA aim to do just this. Named galcanezumab-gnlm, erenumab-aooe and fremanezumab-vfrm, they contain antagonist, a chemical that binds pain receptors and activate different other receptors in the brain. The CGRP antagonist works to block and reduces the molecule’s impact on migraine.
IS IT SAFE TO BLOCK CGRP?
Evidences from clinical studies have shown that there is a risk of taking these drugs and brands that have been given permission to manufacture these drugs have been asked to print the side effects on the bottle. They include paresthesia, nausea, headache, dry mouth and vision disturbances in few patients.
However, a more serious side-effect was noticed later on: Liver toxicity. However, it was seen in only small groups of people. FDA has given approval to these drugs, as the effects were found to be mild to moderate. The occurrence rate was also low.
Though there is no cure for migraine, there are many available options to manage the pain of migraine. Triptans are one of them. This class of medication offers pain relief by binding with serotonin (a brain chemical) receptors. The other therapy that shows promise is brain stimulation. It activates or inhibits the brain’s pain centers directly with electricity.