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.

Study suggests that “distractions” like background noise make it harder for migraine sufferers to concentrate

One of the hallmarks of a severe migraine headache is a person’s sensitivity to light.  Often, when someone is suffering from one of these debilitating headaches, he/she seeks refuge in a darkened room, limiting as much light as possible, as well as avoiding any distractions.  Migraine sufferers can spend hours in the room, waiting for the pain to dissipate and adjusting to their environment again.  It can be so bad that some people must leave work to avoid the light and ride the migraine out.  Most individuals who have migraines note that light makes the headaches worse, and sometimes, it is that very light exposure that causes a migraine to occur.  But, why exactly is there a connection between light and the onset of a migraine? Two Scottish researchers set out to find out why and if this relationship really exists.

The research team divided study participants into two groups: one group had never suffered from migraines, while the other group consisted of individuals who experienced chronic migraines.  The participants were asked to focus on a small white light, while light noise played in the background.  This light noise was akin to the television static that comes on when the cable is out or programming is discontinued.  The researchers noted that when the background noise was not on, the healthy participants, as well as the migraine sufferers could each find the white light with little to no problems.  In this instance, those living with migraines did not complain of any difficulty or pain.  When the background was turned on, however, those migraine sufferers had a very difficult time finding the white light when compared with the healthy participants.  It is important to note that those who were prone to migraines were not suffering from any at the time of the study.

The researchers concluded that people who suffer from migraines recognize visual cues better when there are no distractions around, such as the background noise in the study.  What was surprising to the researchers is that this was true even when they were not suffering from migraines.  They concluded that migraine sufferers are likely at a disadvantage when they are attempting to focus on a particular object or details in a cluttered environment.  Unfortunately, our environment is chock full of objects, noise, lights, etc. that may prevent these individuals from being able to focus.  This may explain why being in a dark room devoid of distractions allows an individual with a migraine to focus better and relax their eyes, contributing to some pain relief.

This also may the reason people with migraines find it so difficult to maintain employment and will often file for Social Security Disability. The work environment often involves noise, light, other people’s perfumes, etc., so it’s no wonder migraine sufferers have such a tough time on the job.

If you suffer from migraines, you may benefit from decreasing the amount of distractions present in your environment – be it at work or at home.  Additionally, when a migraine hits, it is prudent to escape to a quiet, darkened room to ease the adjustment to all that is present around you. If your migraines are so bad that even these measures do not help you, it may be time to file for Social Security Disability.

Aleve and/or Tylenol for Migraine Pain Management

Most people will go to any length imaginable in order to make the pain associated with a migraine headache go away.  They are often relegated to taking an assortment of prescription medications to ease the pain and possibly prevent a migraine attack from occurring.  Despite the relative success of these drugs, many migraine sufferers find they cannot take them because of the severe side effects associated with them.  Unfortunately, most individuals must take something in order to combat the migraine because its effects often result in being absent from work, school, and other activities – which is why people with migraines often end up applying for social security disability.  Two new studies published in the journal Headache, however, give some hope to those migraine sufferers who simply cannot take or do not respond well to the traditional drug therapies.  Each of these studies concluded that taking naproxen (or Aleve) and acetaminophen (or Tylenol) reduced migraine pain and recurrence, as well as other migraine symptoms, such as nausea.

In the first study, researchers from Taiwan examined the results of previous studies using naproxen at a dosage level of 500 to 825 milligrams for approximately 2,168 migraine patients.  The researchers found that naproxen reduced the migraine intensity, pain, and symptoms within two hours of taking it, according to Reuters.  This resulted in a “desirable outcome” as defined by the International Headache Society.  Despite this favorable outcome, the researchers also found that naproxen did not always offer the same clinical benefits as triptans, the traditional migraine drugs.  Moreover, the researchers also found that aspirin provided better relief than naproxen in regulating migraine pain.  In fact, according to Reuters, the research team concluded that a 1,000 milligram dose of aspirin was the best treatment option for migraines when compared to naproxen or acetaminophen.  However, many people cannot take triptans or aspirin because of their harsh side effects.  Because of this, Aleve and Tylenol may provide the best alternative to migraine pain management.

In the second study, the manufacturers of Tylenol conducted an examination 378 migraine sufferers who were randomly given Tylenol or a placebo.  Over ninety days, the researchers found that those taking the Tylenol reported reduced pain within an hour of taking the pill, and after two hours, fifty-two percent report little to no pain.  Conversely, those in the placebo group continued to report pain after two hours at a rate of sixty-eight percent.  They also found that Tylenol reduced other migraine associated problems such as nausea and light sensitivity, whereas the placebo did not.

This is great news for migraine sufferers who have reached their wits’ end about how to effectively counter the effects of a migraine.  Taking Tylenol or Aleve are low cost, effective alternatives to the traditional migraine drugs on the market.  Further, it may be easier for people to purchase and take them without having to wait for a prescription or worry about injecting a medication while at work or school.  Because these medications are not approved by the FDA as a migraine treatment, it is best to speak with your doctor about taking them as part of your migraine therapy.  Hopefully, you will get the green light to take something already in your medicine cabinet and get the relief you have been looking for.

Women who suffer from migraines exhibit a lower risk of breast cancer, studies show

Numerous studies have shown that the majority of migraine sufferers are women.  Specifically, of the thirty million migraine patients, three out of four are women.  It is difficult, however, to determine whether a woman is suffering from migraines or from another health condition where migraines result as an offshoot.  Although there is no definable cause for migraine occurrence, it appears that woman’s hormones often play a role in influencing a migraine attack, triggering debilitating pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.  Furthermore, although no one can definitively predict when a migraine is going to attack, most medical professionals agree that estrogen plays a significant role in the frequency, intensity, and fluctuation of migraines.  This may be why women experience more severe migraine symptoms around the time of their period and why birth control is sometimes used as a way to control migraine attacks.  This link between estrogen and migraines may also provide an understanding as to why women who suffer from migraines also exhibit a lower risk of breast cancer.

According to USA Weekend, studies published between 2008 and 2009 show that women who suffer from migraines have a twenty-six to thirty-three percent lower risk of developing breast cancer.  After these studies, researchers began to wonder whether it was the actual migraines or the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that reduced the risk of breast cancer.  The USA Weekend article notes that both aspirin and these types of drugs have been shown to reduce the overall risk of breast cancer and are often taken to combat migraines.  The researchers found that migraine sufferers were eleven percent less likely to develop breast cancer and seventeen percent less likely to develop hormone sensitive breast cancer, even if they were not  taking any of the aforementioned drugs.

The research team believes that the estrogen’s role in breast cancer and migraine attacks is the reason for these associations.  They cite the evidence that more women experience severe headaches around the time of menstruation and that pregnant women have fewer migraines once the estrogen stabilizes in the middle of pregnancy.  How estrogen actually influences these conditions is still largely unknown and more research will be needed in this area.  It does provide some hope, however, that those who suffer with migraines may be able to better manage them depending on their estrogen levels.  It is also significant that having such a debilitating condition can actually decrease the chances of developing another serious disease like cancer.

Migraine researchers develop a hand held device for treating migraines

It was only a matter of time before scientists and researchers developed a portable device that could help ease the symptoms of a chronic and often debilitating condition. We have become a society that thrives on having our phones, calendars, internet, and books all in the palm of our hand. It comes as no surprise, then, that a hand held device, developed at the Montefiore Headache Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, is being touted as the newest of treatment options for those suffering with migraines.

The device itself transmits a trans cranial magnetic stimulation pulse to the back of the head, thereby interrupting the electrical activity in the brain that can trigger a migraine aura to occur. These early symptoms are usually associated with flashing lights, nausea, numbness or tingling, and other disturbances. The device was tested by approximately two hundred patients from sixteen various medical centers across the United States. The participants were randomly assigned the actual device or a placebo device that looked identical to the real one. Additionally, all of the individuals had previously been diagnosed with aura type migraines. Over the course of three months, they were asked to give two pulses to the back of their heads when they began to experience early signs of a migraine. Then, they were instructed to record their pain levels right after using the device, thirty minutes afterward, and then, after one, two, twenty-four, and forty-eight hours.

The researchers found that thirty-nine percent of the patients were pain free at the two hour mark after using the device. Moreover, some were even pain free forty-eight hours after using the product. As a comparison, those using the placebo device reported having no pain after two hours in approximately twenty-two percent of the test population. What is more is that no significant side effects were reported and the device was relatively easy to use.

Although, as with most studies, additional research into the device’s use will be necessary, it is a welcome advancement for the migraine treatment field. Many people who live with disorder are reluctant to take drugs or shots, due to their side effects and inconvenience. Even though the drugs are supposed to lessen the impact of the migraine symptoms, people find that they often need to leave work, school, or other activities to take them and wait out the pain. This can contribute to people not being able to work because of the disorder and corresponding treatment. With this device, however, people can take it with them, and experience relief from pain in a relatively short amount of time. Although it is not as small as the palm of your hand, nor is it an application that you can download on your I-Phone, this new device is likely to make a big impact on many migraine sufferers.

Botox for Preventing Migraines??

Usually when people get plastic surgery it is for aesthetic purposes, such as fixing a crooked nose or erasing wrinkles from the face and neck. A new study, published in the February issue of Archives of Dermatology, suggests that the drug botox, which is normally used to temporarily diminish wrinkles, may also be helpful in preventing certain types of migraines. The dermatologists conducting the study wanted to test whether using Botox is smaller doses had the same effect as prior studies in reducing the number of migraines that people experienced. In those prior studies it was discovered that individuals who experienced ocular and imploding headaches responded well to Botox. Individuals who experienced the exploding type of migraines did not respond to the Botox treatment. Additionally, these studies were conducted by neurologists, and in this study, the research was conducted by dermatologists in a cosmetic setting.

The dermatologists examined eighteen patients who were considering having Botox done for cosmetic purposes and who also suffered from migraines. Ten of these patients experienced ocular or crushing migraines, while the other patients suffered from exploding or pressure building headaches. Some of the patients even complained of experiencing both types of migraines. After three months of Botox treatments, the dermatologists found that thirteen of the patients reported a reduction in migraine pain, including all ten of the ocular headache sufferers and three of the exploding headache sufferers. Specifically, for those living with ocular migraines saw a decrease in their headaches from seven per month to one per month. In the exploding headache group, the patients saw a decrease from approximately eleven per month to nine per month.

Although this and previous studies appear to indicate that Botox may be beneficial for migraine treatment, use of the drug is still not largely advocated by the medical establishment, and the American Academy of Neurology has advised against its use for these debilitating headaches. The dermatologists conducting this study, however, believe that additional research is necessary to determine if Botox could be an alternative treatment for certain migraine sufferers who do not experience relief with traditional therapies. They assert that this small study, coupled with the prior Botox studies, make a good argument for the use of Botox for ocular migraines. In fact, some doctors, who have a patient who has not responded to regular migraine treatment, refer them to a dermatologist for Botox. Although insurance does not cover the treatments, approximately fifty percent of patients report a reduction in the headaches. What would be really interesting to know is what a person’s face looks like after all of the injections to keep the migraines at bay…

Researchers explore link between migraines and Multiple Sclerosis

Last week, we discussed the potential for migraine sufferers to develop heart disease in addition to their already chronic, debilitating headaches.  Now, a new study presents evidence that women with a history of migraines may also be more prone to develop multiple sclerosis.  The study examined the relationship between migraines and multiple sclerosis, but it did not definitively conclude that migraines were risk factors or if they were simply an early symptom of the neurological disorder.  Although the overall risk for developing multiple sclerosis is relatively small among those living with migraines, this study does provide a great deal of insight regarding a possible link between the two.

The study, the first large-scale on of its kind, sought to recognize and understand the role that migraines play in the development of multiple sclerosis.  The research team examined data from 116,000 nurses who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study for sixteen years since 1989.  Researchers found that approximately 18,000 reported having migraines at the beginning of the study and 375 were eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis throughout the course of the study.  The research team then adjusted the data for those who already had risk factors for multiple sclerosis and concluded that having a history of migraines correlated to a forty-seven percent risk for developing the neurological disorder.  Those conducting the study already knew that women were twice as likely to develop multiple sclerosis as men, and three times as likely to suffer from migraines.  Both of these conditions are usually diagnosed before the age of fifty.  What the researchers did not know, however, was whether there was a clear association between migraines and multiple sclerosis.  It appears from this study that the two disabilities do correlate with one another somehow, although the actual reason behind the interplay is still unknown.  The research team published the conclusions of the study and plan to present the findings at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in April.  One part of the study that the researchers did not publish was the fact that being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis is associated with an increased risk of developing migraines.  As such, it seems that these conditions are linked in a particular manner, and it is a relationship that goes both ways.

This study is important to the millions who suffer with migraines and the many who must eventually file for social security disability benefits due to their inability to work.  This information may help their cause because if migraines are linked to the development of yet another disability, such as multiple sclerosis, examiners and judges are much more likely to recognize the chronic, debilitating effects.  The study is also important because knowing that migraines are part of multiple sclerosis will help in recommending the correct treatment option.  If you suffer from migraines or multiple sclerosis, and feel that you may be developing symptoms of the other, please visit your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and therapy.

New Study Suggests Link Between Migraines and Heart Disease

Migraine sufferers now have another symptom to monitor in addition to the traditional pain and debilitating discomfort associated with the condition. In a new report from Reuters Health, researchers have found that people who suffer from migraines may have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke than those who do not have the severe headaches. Previous studies have shown a link between cardiovascular disease and migraines with auras, however, none have been conclusive regarding migraines without auras, which account for eighty percent of migraine sufferers. Auras are neurological symptoms that include visual difficulties, tingling, and ringing of the ears that may precede a migraine.

The study followed 11,000 individuals with and without migraines. The researchers found that instances of heart attack, stroke, or other migraine heart disease linkcardiovascular problems were much more likely in those people who had migraines. Moreover, there was no differential between migraines with auras and without; they were all equally susceptible to heart conditions. Although there is no specific known cause for migraines, it is generally accepted that migraine pain involves the constriction and swelling of blood vessels. The researchers believe that this study indicates that people with migraines may suffer from an overall problem with blood vessels throughout the body. Additionally, they found that migraine sufferers also exhibited high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which all contribute to cardiovascular disease. The researchers were quick to note, however, that even these conditions did not demonstrate why a link between migraines and cardiovascular problems exists. Although they believe that there may be some underlying susceptibility of individuals with migraines to develop heart conditions, further research pinpointing the exact cause will be necessary.

The researchers also caution migraine sufferers against worrying too much about these findings. Although individuals suffering with migraines have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the overall, absolute risk is relatively small. For example, only four percent of the migraine sufferers studied also had cardiovascular problems. In the group who did not experience migraines, the rate was two percent, which is not a large gap. Despite this small difference between the two groups, the researchers do encourage migraine sufferers to monitor and guard against any risk factors that may contribute to heart problems, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol.

In addition to watching your risk factors, it may also be important to discuss possible cardiovascular problems with your doctor. Severe heart disease, as well as migraines, may prevent you from working and are considered disabilities by the Social Security Administration. Being properly diagnosed and treated will not only help you manage these conditions, but may also result in a faster outcome for disability benefits. If you are having any thoughts that you may have risk factors that could lead to heart disease in addition to your migraines, ask your doctor to take your blood work and begin any necessary treatment.

Research on Migraines and Light Sensitivity

If you suffer from migraines, you surely know how debilitating its effects can be on any given day. Migraines often cause people to suffer from throbbing pain in one part of the head, vomiting, nausea, and other symptoms. They effect almost thirty million people in the United States and can result in the filing of disability paperwork, due to the difficulty that people have in engaging in work and daily activities. It can be difficult to predict when a migraine is going to occur and it is even more difficult to control once one happens. One of the most exacerbating factors for a migraine is light, which makes many people retreat to a dark room when a migraine hits. Now researchers believe they know the reason that light is such a powerful contributor to the condition.

This new research has found that there is a visual pathway in the brain that light sensitivityunderlies light sensitivity during migraines in blind people and in those with normal eyesight. The hope is that with identification of this pathway, certain treatments may be developed to block the pathway so that individuals can be in the light without suffering pain. More research will be needed, as the recent experiments were only conducted on rats, which do not always translate into helpful therapies for humans.

The impetus for the experiment was that approximately eight-five percent of migraine sufferers also have extreme sensitivity to light, which is known as photophobia. Interestingly, even blind individuals exhibit photophobia, which led the researchers to believe that the retina transmitted signals along the optic nerve that somehow triggered an intensification of pain. Scientists explored this phenomenon further by examining two groups of blind human patients who suffered with migraine headaches. The first group consisted of individuals who were totally blind and could not see images or sense light, while the second group consisted of individuals who were legally blind due to degenerative diseases and could not see images, but could sense light. The team found that those who were blind and couldn’t see light did not have increased migraine pain when exposed to light, however the second group, who could sense light, described more pain.

After this examination, the scientists concluded that photophobia must involve the optic nerve because the optic nerve does not send light signals to the brain in totally blind individuals. Further, the scientists realized that the second group did not have normal sleep-wake cycles, which are controlled by light. Therefore, they opined that retinal cells which dictate biological cycles, such as sleep, also dictate the light sensitivity phenomenon.