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New FDA-Approved Drug Prevents, Treats Migraines

June 25, 2021

Until now, people have been able to take one type of medication to prevent migraines and another type to treat them once they start, but a new drug is touted for doing both. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved rimegepant (known by the brand name Nurtec) for both preventive and abortive use with migraine, a revolutionary step for people who suffer from the neurological condition, according to Dr. Sandhya Mehla, a specialist with the Headache Center at the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute. “This is the first and only FDA-approved medication for the preventive and acute treatment of episodic migraine,” she noted, defining episodic as people who have 14 headaches or less each month. Fifteen or more a month are classified as chronic migraine. The medication has been used for the treatment of a migraine attack, with the recent FDA approval expanding its use to include prevention. This step, Dr. Mehla said, stems from research showing it is able to decrease the number of headache days within the first four weeks of its use as preventive. When a headache has already started, she said Nurtec “is a good alternative for us to use in patients who could not tolerate, did not get full effect from or had contraindications for previously available acute treatment medications like triptans.” The expanded use for Nurtec gives providers a more robust tool to help patients manage migraine, which affects 39 million Americans and can prove debilitating with accompanying nausea, dizziness, vision changes and/or sensitivity to light and sound. “Having both the indications, we will be able to use this medication for patients who require more frequent usage with the expectation they can prevent migraine, while also using it to treat individual migraine headache attacks,” Dr. Mehla said. Nurtec, an oral dissolving tablet, works by focusing on Calcitonin Gene Receptor Peptide (CGRP), one of the main chemicals the body releases during a migraine attack. The medication antagonizes the effect of CGRP, therefore aborting and preventing migraine. Its preventive powers, Dr. Mehla noted, stem from its longer half-life.