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New Drugs May Help Prevent Migraines

Two early trials show two experimental compounds reduced number of headaches for sufferers
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Five to eight weeks later, patients given the drug were having 5.6 fewer "migraine days" per month on average -- a 66 percent drop. The placebo group also saw an improvement, of 4.6 fewer migraine days. Still, the benefit of the drug was significant in statistical terms, Lipton pointed out.

In the other trial, 217 patients received either the injection drug -- by the name of LY2951742 -- or a placebo, biweekly for 12 weeks.

Again, both groups got some migraine relief, but the benefit was bigger for patients on the real drug. They had 4.2 fewer migraine days a month, or a 63 percent decline. The placebo patients had three fewer migraine days, or a 42 percent decrease.

Some big questions remain, however. Researchers have to figure out how long the effects of the medications last, and how often they would need to be given, Goadsby said.

In the short term, the drugs seemed "well tolerated," Lipton said. People in the injection-drug trial had higher rates of abdominal pain and respiratory infections than the placebo group. And in the IV-drug study, people on the real drug had no more side effects than the placebo group.

Still, Lipton said, "a lot more people need to be followed to prove [the drugs'] safety."

He acknowledged that some patients might balk at the idea of an IV drug, which would have to be given by a doctor. An injection drug might be more acceptable, he said.

About 12 percent of Americans suffer migraine headaches, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Many of them can manage with pain relievers, but about one-third need preventive medication, Lipton said.

However, he added, only around 10 percent take preventive drugs, often because they don't work or the side effects are intolerable. "There's a huge need for new preventive medications," Lipton said.

The current studies were funded by Alder Biopharmaceuticals, which is developing ALD403, and Arteaus Therapeutics, the developer of LY2951742.

Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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