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First FDA-Approved Drug That Prevents Chronic Migraine Costs $6,900 A Year

May 21, 2018 10:49 PM EDT
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The Food and Drug Administration just approved the first ever preventive medicine for migraines, offering hope to chronic sufferers of this ultra-painful type of headache.

First Of Its Kind

For the longest time, people plagued with migraines had no way of preventing these painful attacks. Patients can take various drugs meant for other ailments, but none have proven to be very effective and many come with side effects. Now, there's Aimovig.

According to a press release from FDA, Aimovig works by blocking the activity of calcitonin gene-related peptide, which is involved in the bouts of migraine attacks. The treatment includes a monthly injection from a tool that's similar to an insulin pen.

"Aimovig provides patients with a novel option for reducing the number of days with migraine," Eric Bastings, M.D., deputy director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says in a statement. "We need new treatments for this painful and often debilitating condition."

Migraines happen three times more with women than men. Over 10 percent of people worldwide suffer from it, and it can involve other symptoms beyond pain such as nausea and vomiting. New York Times says that 2 percent of the world's population has to deal with chronic migraines. It's reportedly the third most common disease in the world.

"The drugs will have a huge impact," Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist and migraine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, tells New York Times. "This is really an amazing time for my patient population and for general neurologists treating patients with migraine."

Price Lower Than Expected

Developed by Amgen and partner Novartis, Aimovig will be available for $6,900 a year, which is hefty investment, but far lower than initially expected. Amgen's previously released drug Repatha had a less than ideal debut commercially with its $14,000 annual price tag.

"The payers recognize that there is a clear and longstanding unmet need in migraine," Tony Hooper, executive vice president of global commercial operations at Amgen, says during a call with analysts Friday, according to NOLA. He adds that pharmacy-benefit managers and insurers have all expressed their support of their price.

"Overall, we think their pricing strategy fits well into the current reimbursement environment," Jefferies analyst Michael Yee says, adding that the affordable pricing sends a good message.

Aimovig will reportedly be available to the public within a week of FDA approval.

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