Migraine is a severe headache, which is debilitating and can pretty much prevent people from working or functioning properly. A lot of migraine sufferers have it as a chronic condition, which means that it returns regularly and has to be medicated.
However, as this new study from the Monash University has shown, a very effective drug remains unaffordable for most patients.
Scientists invited 170 migraine patients to participate in this study. 90 % of them were female (migraine is more common among women) and their average age was 46. All of them had frequent, severe migraine attacks, which is categorized as chronic migraine at that point. Scientists wanted to test the effectiveness of a migraine drug called Erenumab (Aimovig), so they divided participants into two groups. One was given regular drugs that are prescribed at no cost, while the second group was called “paid access” – they were given Erenumab for three months.
The problem of Erenumab is its cost. This drug was designed specifically for migraine and boasts high levels of effectiveness and tolerability. Recently Erenumab was withdrawn from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in Australia, which means that patients will have to pay to access it. Erenumab is a fairly new drug, which means that it is expensive and is likely to remain inaccessible to many migraine sufferers. Scientists wanted to see if this political decision can be motivated by low effectiveness/cost ratio, which would mean that his drug is more expensive than it is good. However, this research showed otherwise.
Scientists found that after a course of just three months 58.8 % of the Erenumab group patients had at least halved the number of ‘migraine attack’ days they had each month. This was a tremendous improvement, because previously people couldn’t work while having those huge migraine attacks. Furthermore, the effects of these medicines persisted much longer than the course actually lasted. After six months since the beginning of the course 50 % of the patients still experienced just half the number of days with migraine that they had at baseline. This means these people could work and function better, didn’t have to cancel their plans or significantly cut back on their social life. Most importantly, these people did not have to rely on huge doses of cheaper pain killers, which cause their own load of side effects.
Is this study going to be enough for policy makers to reconsider their decision about Erenumab? Probably not. However, it is enough for the citizens to know that there are new drugs that can significantly improve the quality of their lives. Civil pressure on decision makers is what it takes for a change to take place.
Source: Monash University