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

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

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended a treatment that could halve the number of paralyzing 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 without success.

The pill – sold under the brand names Aquipta and Qulipta and made by pharmaceutical company AbbVie – could be a boon to up to 170,000 patients in England.

Atogepant will be an option for people who have at least four migraine days per month and who have tried at least three other treatments without success

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 causes blood vessels to dilate, which can lead to inflammation and migraines.

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

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

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

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

She said patients with chronic migraines – which occur on more than 15 days of the month – “would welcome an oral treatment”.

Meanwhile, Aquipta is also said to offer ‘more choice’ to people who suffer from episodic migraines, which occur 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 patients.

According to The Migraine Trust, around 10 million adults in Britain live with the condition.

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

‘Symptoms may include severe headaches, loss or change of the senses, and a lack of ability to carry out daily life.

‘It’s 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 that access is fast so that migraine sufferers can benefit from it as quickly as possible.’

Health Secretary 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 enable more people whose daily lives are affected by this painful, debilitating condition to manage their migraines more effectively and live their lives to the fullest.’

NICE’s final draft guidelines for England come 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 patients.

NICE recommends that Aquipta should be stopped after twelve weeks if chronic migraine does not reduce by at least 30 percent and episodic migraine by at least 50 percent.

If the final draft guidelines are not appealed, the spending watchdog is expected to publish its final guidelines on the drug next month.

Migraine versus headache, how do you tell the difference?

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

It is a common health condition that affects about one in five women and about one in fifteen men. They usually start in early adulthood.

There are different types of migraines, some have warning signs such as flashing lights in vision, some do not.

Some people suffer from migraines frequently, up to several times a week, while others may go years between attacks.

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

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

Some patients know that certain triggers, such as certain foods, drinks, or stress, can cause or increase the risk of migraines.

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