A new generation of headache drugs for migraine


Migraine is a neurological condition most often characterised by a severe headache. Migraines affect 1 in 10 people in New Zealand with women being affected three times more than men. Unfortunately, current preventative medications do not work for all patients.

Neuropeptides, such as Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), play a particularly important role in migraine. CGRP monoclonal antibodies are a new type of treatment for migraine. CGRP monoclonal antibodies are a preventative treatment that reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Prior to their development, the only preventive medicine for migraine were medications that had been developed for other conditions but were also found to be useful in treating migraine.

Medsafe has approved two new medications (erenumab and galcanezumab) for use in New Zealand, although currently only erenumab is available in New Zealand.

Erenumab (also called Aimovig) is given as a monthly injection which may be suitable for patients who suffer at least 4 migraine days per month. The subcutaneous injection is given under the skin. You can do this yourself after being shown by a doctor or nurse.

Erenumab should be initiated under the guidance of a neurologist or specialist in the management of migraine. Although approved, it is not currently funded by Pharmac in New Zealand.