Breakthrough migraine drug approved on NHS to benefit thousands in England

The NHS in England has approved the new migraine drug, rimegepant. Oral treatment offers convenience and relief to thousands of patients.
Kavita Verma
image of a throbbing brain with hand to head
New drug offers hope for many migraine sufferers 

In a groundbreaking move, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended an oral treatment for preventing migraines, marking the first time such a recommendation has been made. NICE has granted approval for rimegepant, which offers hope to the thousands of people in England who suffer from migraines. This drug, developed by Pfizer and also known as Vydura, has been recommended to prevent migraines in adults who have previously failed at least three other preventive treatments.

Rimegepant: A promising oral treatment for preventing episodic migraines

Migraines severely impact the quality of life for millions of people in England. Helen Knight, the Program Director of Medicines Evaluation at NICE, acknowledged the debilitating nature of these attacks and emphasized the importance of providing effective solutions. She stated, "Rimegepant is the first oral treatment for migraine to be recommended by NICE, and for many thousands of people, it is likely to be a welcome and more convenient addition to existing options for a condition that is often overlooked and undertreated."

Rimegepant is taken as a wafer that dissolves under the tongue, making it a user-friendly alternative to pills. NICE has given the drug a green flag for use in preventing episodic migraines, which occur in individuals experiencing fewer than 15 migraine days per month. According to estimates, around 5.6 million people in England suffer from episodic migraines, with approximately 190,000 migraine attacks occurring daily.

The mechanism of action for rimegepant involves blocking the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a protein found in the brain. CGRP is responsible for the intense inflammation and excruciating pain associated with migraines. This novel approach offers hope to patients who have previously tried and failed with other preventive treatments that may have had significant side effects or proved ineffective.

Rimegepant approved for prevention but not for acute migraines

Although NICE has recommended rimegepant for prevention, it did not approve the drug for treating acute migraines in the draft guidance published for consultation. This decision has received mixed reactions from charities. While they welcome the availability of another preventive treatment, they express disappointment that rimegepant was not approved for acute cases as well. The Migraine Trust's chief executive, Rob Music, highlights the issue of medication overuse resulting from inadequate treatment and urges the effective treatment of migraines to prevent this occurrence.

With the approval of rimegepant, the NHS in England takes a significant step forward in addressing the needs of migraine sufferers. This groundbreaking drug offers a new avenue of hope and relief for those who have been failed by previous treatments. The availability of an oral preventive treatment marks a milestone in migraine management, holding the potential to significantly enhance the lives of numerous individuals affected by this condition.

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