Does Christmas give you a headache?

06 December 2018

New preventative treatment for migraine available at Dunedin

Migraine and other headache disorders are among the most disabling of all medical conditions and during the Christmas period the frequency of attacks can increase, as sufferers deal with lack of sleep, unusual foods and emotional stress. Around 10% of the population in the UK suffer from severe headaches; meaning around six million people could lose one or more days over the holiday period, to pain.

For most migraine can be prevented or the frequency of attacks at least reduced by regular exercise, eight hours of sleep, staying hydrated and keeping an eye on how much caffeine and alcohol are consumed. Migraine is not a physical breakdown of the brain, but more a functional ‘misfire’ – treating the brain like a computer, a migraine is a software, not a hardware issue – and can be acute or episodic (infrequent attacks) or chronic (with symptoms experienced for three months or longer).

Generally treatment involves paracetamol and rest but if migraines are severe, medication can help treat the symptoms and prevent frequent recurrences.

A new specific treatment to alleviate the symptoms of migraine headache has become available and has generated interest and enquiries to the Consultant Neurologists who run headache clinics at Spire Dunedin Hospital.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) granted a licence in July of this year for the use of Novartis’ new migraine treatment Erenumab (Aimovig®). Erenumab is the first of a new class of medications specifically developed for migraine preventative treatment, available on prescription in the UK. It targets a specific compound in the brain (a calcitonin-gene related peptide) known to be involved in the synaptic pathway that generates migraine. This is unlike all other medications used for migraine prevention currently, which were originally developed for other purposes and then found to help migraine sufferers to various extents.

This new drug is administered through a monthly injection under the skin, rather than orally. The studies suggest that 40-50% of people with episodic or chronic migraine will respond to this treatment and that it on average it reduces the number of migraine days by 50%.

Erenumab can now be prescribed privately to adults who have at least 4 migraine days per month, following an assessment, as it is not yet available through the NHS.

Neurologists here at Spire Dunedin provide a specialist service to assess and treat migraine and all other headache disorders. A whole range of treatments can be suggested and provided, including Erenumab. Usually, with a systematic approach, the management of these very disabling disorders can be improved resulting in significant improvements in quality of life.


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