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New drugs promise to banish splitting headaches

Four options in the pipeline

With more than 39 million migraine sufferers in the United States and a wide range of symptoms accompanying each one, it can be difficult to effectively treat patients. And while current drugs may treat and prevent migraines for many patients, they weren’t developed specifically for migraine treatment.

The following drugs are sure to shake up the marketplace. Did you know? Migraines currently cost Americans an estimated $36 billion annually External Site in lost productivity and health care expenses. Not only that, but migraines are one of the most common reasons for emergency department visits.

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39 million Americans suffer from migraines, which leads to 36 billion dollars in lost productivity and health care costs each year.

Tackling the cause

Four investigational drugs from a new drug class, known as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors, are the first to focus on migraine prevention. CGRP levels increase in patients during a migraine, and the drugs in development work by either binding to CGRP itself or blocking its receptor. If approved, these medications could be available as early as mid-2018.

Positive trials

The four CGRP inhibitors in development would all require either monthly or quarterly subcutaneous or intravenous (IV) administration. So far in clinical trials, all four appear to reduce frequency of headaches (both chronic and occasional) and are reasonably safe. Compared to placebo, the drugs reduced headache days by an additional one to two days per month.

  1. Erenumab has shown to be effective in reducing headaches for those who suffer from both chronic and occasional migraines. Erenumab was recently approved External Site by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  2. Galcanezumab garnered positive Phase 3 (clinical research External Site) results as a prophylactic for both occasional and chronic migraine.
  3. Fremanezumab has produced positive Phase 3 results, with both monthly and quarterly subcutaneous injections, for people with chronic and occasional migraines.
  4. Eptinezumab is further out in the development pipeline but delivered positive Phase 3 results for people with occasional migraines. The drug is administered quarterly as an IV infusion.


With the potential for all four drugs to be available soon, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will continue to monitor the trial results. If a drug is approved, Wellmark’s Pharmacy & Therapeutics (P&T) Committee will review the drug’s safety, effectiveness and cost to determine where it should live within our drug list. You can check the Wellmark Drug List Opens in a new windowto see where current treatments fall.