New migraine treatments on horizon

April 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
For patients suffering from migraine headaches, there are several new options on the market now with more expected to be approved soon by the FDA. So which ones show the greatest promise? That depends on the patient and the type of migraine being treated.

Headache counselor Daniela Freda not only runs a migraine support group in San Francisco, she suffers from the debilitating headaches herself.

"Whenever there are new drugs out, it's very, very hopeful for patients, migraine sufferers, that they're going to find that something's that's going to help," said Freda.

One candidate is a device ABC7 first reported on last year. The Zelrix patch uses a mild electrical current to push the medicine into the skin. It's now before the FDA for approval.

San Francisco headache specialist Dr. Jerome Goldstein participated in the Zelrix trial. He said it offers a benefit for patients who suffer nausea with oral medications.

"The advantage of this sort of thing really is that it avoids going through the stomach, which is deeply affected during migraine-type headaches," said Goldstein.

Meanwhile, Mountain View-based Map Pharmaceuticals also expects to submit a new drug application in the next few months, for a mist inhaler system called Levadex. It's designed to deliver a well-established migraine drug quickly into the blood stream.

"Their method of delivery promotes a very, very high blood level in a very short period of time," said Goldstein.

This will potentially give migraine patients a way to quickly ingest medicine when they feel the earliest signs of a headache.

"Sometimes migraines come on very suddenly, and so at that point, for some of the medications it might be too late," said Freda.

Both treatments come on the heels of the FDA's approval of Botox to treat a smaller subset of migraine patients who suffer at least 15 debilitating headaches a month. Goldstein sees each new therapy targeting different types of patients.

"Clearly the Botox approval is for chronic, daily headaches. The electric patch is really for definite migraine sufferers who have routine migraine-type headaches," said Goldstein.

And he believes the Map inhaler may treat segments of several groups.

"Application of the Map product may be actually in more frequent migraine headaches and or in cluster headaches," said Goldstein.

Regardless of their specific targets, Freda believes having more options will help patient's cope.

"Even just to have a reduction of one migraine in a week, would be huge deal for a migraine patient," said Freda.

One additional note: the FDA has issued a warning about a seizure drug that is sometimes prescribed for migraines. The drug Topamax was linked to birth defects in a recent study. The FDA is now urging caution in prescribing that drug to women of child-bearing age.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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