January 18, 2020

Several New Migraine Treatments Near FDA Approval

The United States Food & Drug Administration is likely to approve several promising new migraine treatments in 2011.   The treatment perhaps closest to market is the Zelrix patch, manufactured by NuPathe Pharmaceuticals.   According to NuPathe’s web site,

Zelrix utilizes SmartRelief, our proprietary transdermal delivery technology. SmartRelief consists of a controlled delivery technology that uses a mild electrical current to actively deliver medication through the skin in a process called iontophoresis.

zelrix transdermal patchAs you can see, the Zelrix patch looks like a large bandage with batteries and electrodes embedded therein.  The batteries generate a mild electrical current to push the medicine into the skin.   Patients who participated in one of the clinical trials enjoyed the benefit of an effective medication but did not experience the nausea and queasiness associated with traditional oral medications.


Another pharmaceutical company, Map Pharmaceuticals of Mountain View, California, is developing a mist inhaler designed to infuse the drug dihydroergotamine (DHE) into the bloodstream.  DHE is considered one of the more effective drug treatments for migraines, but it must be administered intravenously.  If Map Pharmaceutical’s formulation (called Levadex) is approved, more migraine sufferers will have access to DHE without many of the unpleasant side effects associated with current treatment.  Map has also developed a new style inhaler device called the Tempo inhaler designed to deliver medicine more effectively than current inhaler technology.

New technologies like the Zelrix patch and the Tempo inhaler offer promise to migraine sufferers who cannot tolerate oral medications (pills) or who do not respond to currently prescribed medications.   Most migraine headache Social Security disability cases involve assertions that the claimant’s severe headaches cause numerous unscheduled breaks from work and significant problems with attention and concentration.

Until new and effective treatments become widely available migraine patients will continue to qualify for disability benefits based on debilitating migraine headaches.

The Debilitating Impact of Migraines and some Interesting Research Connections

As you probably know, migraine headaches can be very debilitating.  The cause of them is still debated in the medical community.  A study released in June, however, has found brain lesions in the brains of individuals who suffer from migraines.  Researchers looked closely at 4,600 men and women over 40 years of age.  These participants reported having experienced headaches at midlife.  They submitted to a brain scan decades after the onset of these headaches.  Researchers discovered brain lesions in many of the participants.  Among the women participants, the risk of brain lesions appeared to be higher for those women who experienced auras prior to a migraine.  The lesions were most prevalent in the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for sensory integration and motor control.

Some better news for migraine sufferers, particularly women, is also available.  A recent study indicates that women who experience migraines may be less likely to develop brain cancer.  The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.  Scientists selected 9,000 women participants who had suffered from migraines.  These women were found to be 26% less likely to have had breast cancer.  The researchers believe this may have to do with changing hormone levels; migraines are known to occur after there are drops in estrogen levels.  More research is needed to better understand why those women who suffer migraines appear to have a smaller chance of developing breast cancer.

Migraines are a painful ailment.  If you experience migraines and are pursuing a Social Security Disability claim, then you know just how painful they can be.  There are various medications which have proven helpful.  It will help your disability claim if you can show the SSA that you have tried some specialized medications due to your migraines.

Additionally, the SSA may even look at your lifestyle choices in determining whether you are eligible for benefits. You want to portray yourself as someone who wants to help yourself.  Try exercising, avoiding certain “trigger foods,” etc. That way, if the Social Security Judge asks you what steps you have taken to improve your condition, you can genuinely describe the lifestyle changes you have made to try to minimize the debilitating impact of migraines.

Surgical Intervention to Treat Migraine Trigger Sites

A new study on migraine headaches has yielded some potentially dramatic results for migraine sufferers.  Dr. Bahman Guyoron, Chairman of Plastic Surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, authored the study.   He is an internationally recognized leader in the field of plastic surgery.

The study followed 79 migraine sufferers for at least five years after these participants had undergone detection of migraine “trigger sites.” Once these trigger sites were identified, the participants underwent surgery to treat these trigger sites.  For instance, for patients who experience frontal migraine headaches, Dr. Guyoron removed the corrugator supercilii (frowning muscles) in the forehead.  Temple migraine headaches were treated by removing a portion of the trigeminal nerve.  Occiptal headaches (felt in the back of the head) were treated by removing a small piece of muscle encasing the occipital nerve and replacing it with a soft tissue flap.  Lastly, for those suffering from migraine headaches that are felt behind the eyes, often caused by changes in weather, Dr. Guyoron worked on the nose septum and surrounding structures.

The results of this five year study were quite promising.  Some participants were removed from the study for various reasons. Of the remaining participants, 88 percent have maintained the initial positive response to the surgery.  29 percent of the participants reported elimination of migraines entirely.  59 percent of patients noticed a significant decrease in their symptoms, and only 11 percent experienced less than a 50 percent improvement or no change at all.   Clearly, the data provides strong evidence that surgical manipulation of migraine trigger sites can improve symptoms for migraine sufferers.

If you experience migraines regularly, you may consider discussing this study with your doctor.  Migraines can be quite debilitating, but the results of this study indicate that surgical manipulation of your trigger sites could go a very long way in eliminating the role headaches play in your life.