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New Migraine Medication

A migraine is a neurological illness. To call it a “headache” is to downplay its overwhelming ferocity. Migraines are so debilitating that sufferers would welcome any kind of normal “headache” in place of it. Cindy McCain (wife of Senator John McCain) is a public advocate for migraine research. She considers the condition disabling because it prevents the sufferer from leading a normal life. She gives an idea of how terrible her own migraine pain is by saying, she would do anything, “including chew broken glass, if it would help me get rid of this.”

Over the Counter: Of the nearly 30 million Americans who suffer from this chronic and disabling illness, less than half receive a proper diagnosis of “migraine” which means many do not get the medications they need. For the non-diagnosed, in other words, those who are told they have a stress or tension problem, there’s the FDA-approved over the counter medications, such as: Excedrin Migraine, Advil Migraine and Motrin Migraine Pain.

First-line therapy: These are often used for migraine prevention, by prescription and approved by the FDA include: Blocadren, Depakote, Inderal and Topamax.

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Triptans: These are the most important migraine drugs currently approved and for many sufferers are the drug of choice. They help maintain serotonin levels in the brain as they target one of the major elements in the migraine process. Sumatriptan is widely used and is available as a fast-dissolving pill, nasal spray, or injection (Sumavel).

Ergotamines: Ergots, such as Cafergot and Migergot, constrict blood vessels and offer relief to some sufferers. They are, however, less effective but also less expensive than triptans.

Opiates: Opiate-based medications containing narcotics, particularly codeine, are sometimes used to treat migraine pain when people can't take triptans or ergots. Narcotics are habit-forming and are usually used only as a last resort.

New Uses, New Devices, New Researches:

  • Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) has wider use than removing wrinkles. Although the results are mixed, injections into the muscles of the forehead and neck seem to be effective on some patients with migraines.
  • Nerve stimulation devices such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) which deliver magnetic pulses at first signs of a migraine have achieved mixed results.
  • Cardiovascular drugs (beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers) have proven effective in first-line treatments, though researchers don’t know why this is so.
  • Biofeedback therapy. This process monitors physical tension and teaches patients, with self-hypnosis exercises, to control muscle contraction and swelling of blood vessels. Children respond better than adults to this treatment.
  • Telcagepant research is currently underway. It represents a new type of anti-migraine drug that inhibits a protein released during inflammation, called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) which is found in high levels in migraine patients.
  • Enzyme-blocker drugs, such as Aricept, currently prescribed to treat confusion related to Alzheimer's is being tested for migraine prevention,
  • For those who can't take medications, the supplements Magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B-2), and coenzyme Q10 and the herbs feverfew and butterbur show promise for preventing migraine headaches.

There is a myth that women suffer migraines three times as often as men. Many claim that this is a false statistic. They argue that because women report their illnesses more often than men, what is being measured is simply the male’s disinclination to report his condition!

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