SINGAPORE: People suffering from migraine may be able to halve the number of migraine episodes each month if clinical trials of two antibodies go well.
The antibodies neutralise a chemical in the brain known as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP is involved in both pain and sensitivity to sound and light in migraine.
Findings of the trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday (Nov 30).
One antibody, erenumab made by Novartis, was tested on 955 patients who experienced episodic migraines that averaged eight days a month. The study found that 50 per cent of those who received the antibody injections halved their number of migraine days per month. About 27 per cent experienced a similar effect without treatment.
Another antibody, fremanezumab by Teva Pharmaceuticals, was trialled on 1,130 patients with chronic migraine. About 41 per cent of the patients halved their number of migraine days compared with 18 per cent without treatment.
Professor Peter Goadsby, who led the erenumab trials at King's College London, told the BBC: "It's a huge deal because it offers an advance in understanding the disorder and a designer migraine treatment.
"It reduces the frequency and severity of headaches."
The antibodies are not the only options for migraine sufferers. Others include previous epilepsy and heart disease pills as well as Botox. However, the latter alternatives came with side effects and didn’t work well, said Simon Evans, the chief executive of Migraine Action in the UK.
"Some doctors give patients a choice of being angry or fat-and-dosey, and the drug they give them depends on their answer," he said.
Further trials will be needed to assess the long-term effects of the antibodies, which can be expensive to make.