New migraine-prevention medication gives patients hope

Image 1 of 2

Carolyn Mackler is among the 38 million Americans who suffer from migraines. She gets an early warning: loss of vision, which tells her she has 40 minutes before this happens.

Mackler, a novelist, said the pain feels like a stabbing in her eye and like her head is exploding and often brings nausea and vomiting. One migraine lasted three months. She said the migraines limit her writing and have gotten in the way of family time, which she cherishes.

Up until now, she has had to take medications intended for other diseases—such as seizures, blood pressure, depression, and dementia—to try to curb the pain.

But in May, the FDA approved a new class of drugs that may prevent migraines. The drug blocks a protein called CGRP, which causes the inflammation that leads to migraines. The new class of drugs gives neurologists a targeted weapon they didn't have before.

Dr. Louise Klebanoff, a neurologist, said this is the first time doctors have had medications that can prevent migraines or at least reduce the number and severity of headaches.

As is the case with most drugs, these meds fix things but can cause side effects. Not everyone who has had a migraine is a candidate for this treatment.

Dr. Klebanoff said if you have an occasional migraine, such as once a month, you don't need to consider a new medication. She said she is trying her patients, like Mackler, who have frequent migraines or don't do well on other drugs.

Mackler is two months into the treatment and said she is getting a quality of life that she never imagined was possible. That cautious optimism is worth writing about.