‘Life-changing’ once-a-day migraine pill which halves the number of crippling attacks gets green light for NHS use

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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A once-a-day pill could transform the lives of migraine sufferers after it was given the green light for NHS use.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended a treatment that can halve the number of crippling attacks.

Atogepant will be an option for people who have at least four migraine days a month and who have tried at least three other treatments to no avail.

The pill – sold under the brand name Aquipta and Qulipta and made by pharmaceutical company AbbVie – could be a blessing for some 170,000 sufferers in England.

Atogepant will be an option for people who have at least four migraine days a month and who have tried at least three other treatments to no avail

It works by blocking the receptor of a protein found in the sensory nerves of the head and neck, known as the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). This protein makes blood vessels dilate, which can lead to inflammation and a migraine.

Studies show the drug reduces the number of monthly migraine days by half.

The list price stands at £463.38 for 28 tablets, but the NHS has been offered the treatment at a confidential discount price.

Helen Knight, director of medicines evaluation at NICE, said: ‘Currently, the most effective options for people with chronic migraines who have already tried three preventative treatments are drugs that need to be injected.

‘The committee heard from patient experts that some people cannot have injectable treatments, for example because they have an allergy or phobia of needles.’

She said patients with chronic migraines – that happen on more than 15 days of the month – ‘would welcome an oral treatment’.

Meanwhile Aquipta would also offer ‘more choice’ for people who suffer episodic migraines, which happen on fewer than 15 days of the month.

Professor Peter Goadsby, of King’s College Hospital who led the discovery of CGRP in the 1980s, said it could be ‘life-changing’ for sufferers.

According to The Migraine Trust, about 10million adults in the UK are living with the condition.

The charity’s chief executive, Rob Music, said: ‘A migraine attack can be incredibly debilitating.

‘Symptoms can include intense head pain, loss of or changes to the senses, and lack of ability to carry out day-to-day life.

‘It is positive to see even more therapies emerging for people with migraine as many still rely on treatments developed for other conditions.

‘We now need to ensure access is swift, so that migraine patients can benefit from them as quickly as possible.’

Health Minister Andrew Stephenson said: ‘Migraines affect millions of people in this country and this new treatment will help prevent recurring migraine attacks when other medicines have failed.

‘It will allow more people whose daily life is affected by this painful, debilitating condition to manage their migraines more effectively and to live their lives to the fullest.’

NICE’s final draft guidance for England comes after Aquipta was recommended for use in Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) in October last year.

Rachael Millward, medical director at AbbVie UK, said the treatment has the potential to ‘improve the quality of life’ of sufferers.

NICE recommends that Aquipta should be stopped after 12 weeks if chronic migraines do not reduce by at least 30 per cent and episodic migraine by at least 50 per cent.

If there are no appeals against its final draft guidance, the spending watchdog is expected to publish its final guidance on the drug next month.

Migraine v headache, how to tell the difference

A migraine is usually a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head.

It is a common health condition, affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men. They usually begin in early adulthood.

There are several types of migraine, some have warning signs such as flashing lights in vision others don’t.

Some people have migraines frequently, up to several times a week while others can have years between attacks.

You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms, classified by the NHS as on more than five days a month.

The exact cause of migraines is unknown but they are thought be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.

Some sufferers know certain triggers like particular food or drinks or stress can cause or increase the risk of a migraine.

The NHS says there is no cure for migraines though certain medications and behaviour changes can reduce the symptoms or frequency of attacks.

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