A migraine drug patients called “life-changing” has been approved for use by the NHS in Scotland.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) approved fremanezumab, marketed as Ajovy, which works by targeting a small protein in nerve cells called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP is believed to be involved in causing the pain of migraine attacks.
SMC said it accepted fremanezumab after taking into account the benefits of a “confidential discount” which improved the cost-effectiveness of the drug.
Teva Pharmaceuticals, the company that produces the drug, said it could help some of the estimated 740,000 Scottish migraine patients with chronic and episodic migraines for whom other preventative treatments failed.
SMC documents say there are 13,886 episodic patients and 6,527 chronic patients eligible for the £5,400-per-patient-a-year treatment.
Chronic migraines are defined as more than 15 headache days a month with more than eight of those involving migraine symptoms. Episodic migraines involve 14 or fewer headache days.
Out of over 200 chronic migraine patients who recently had been treated with a CGRP drug, 80% said their lives were improved, according to a survey by migraine education charity The Migraine Trust. Many respondents considered the medication to be “life-changing.”
The Migraine Trust said Scotland is the only place in the UK where CGRP inhibitors are approved to treat the condition on the NHS.
Gus Baldwin, The Migraine Trust chief executive, said: “This is wonderful news for the many people in Scotland living with migraines.
“Not only is it an extremely painful and debilitating brain disease, but it also significantly impacts many aspects of the lives of those who get migraines.
“Our research has found that this easy-to-use treatment prevents migraine attacks for many and significantly improves their quality of life.
“This does mean that the national disparity in migraine treatment options increases, though.
“It doesn’t seem fair that access to life-changing migraine medication within the UK depends on your postcode and I hope that this situation is rectified in the near future.”
The NHS approval of fremanezumab comes four months after erenumab (also known as Aimovig), was not approved after there were doubts as to whether it was good enough or worth the money. Many migraine sufferers have been using former epilepsy or heart failure medications, or the anti-wrinkle drug Botox.