Mist inhaler brings relief to migraine sufferers

July 16, 2009 7:16:41 PM PDT
Inhalers have been used for asthma for years, but now a company in Mountain View is testing a new mist that could treat something else -- migraine headaches.

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"It's just overwhelming pain, it's very debilitating. You just want to lay in the fetal position," said Cindy Kyle who has suffered from migraine headaches since she was 12 years old. But now a new treatment is offering her hope of quick relief.

In the lab at Map Pharmaceuticals, CEO Tim Nelson demonstrated the company's inhaler which delivers a mist for migraines. The press of a button helps migraine sufferers find relief.

"Now when a person starts feeling the onset of a migraine, they can pick it (mist inhaler) up from their bedside or the desk in their office, and quickly treat themselves by just inhaling through this inhaler," explained Nelson.

The drug itself, DHE, has actually been used in hospitals for decades, but required an intravenous drip to administer. The company says it has been able to reformulate the drug to be activated by the moisture in a patient's breath. It is then carried quickly into the blood stream through the lungs.

"This now allows for very fast onset of action," said Nelson. "Instead of a pill taking 45 minutes to a couple of hours to work, this therapy can treat the migraine in as fast as 15, 20, 30 minutes."

San Francisco headache researcher Jerome Goldstein is one of the principal investigators in the company's phase three trial. He says the mist is one of several new delivery techniques being developed to administer proven drugs quickly and more conveniently.

"It's almost as fast as the intravenous," explained Goldstein. "It's astounding how fast that blood level goes."

In double-blind clinical trials, the company says the drug marketed under the name Levadex showed effectiveness in treating both the onset of migraine headaches and managing more severe episodes.

Kyle is now taking part in a new open phase of the trial and is using the migraine mist for relief. She says the results have already given her hope of reclaiming her life from the headaches that often kept her locked in her room.

"Making plans and not worrying about getting a migraine and having to stay home, and being able to do things without having to take that as a factor," she said.

The company says if their current round of testing confirms the earlier phase three results, they will apply to the FDA for approval.

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