New York Magazine


Underresearched and often dismissed, migraines have made their sufferers a resourceful bunch. But a promising new drug might finally offer relief.

TO BE CLEAR: A migraine is not a headache, and people with migraines don’t like their condition to be called one. It’s not that headaches aren’t a part of a migraine: They are. But a headache is a single symptom of a multifaceted neurological disease—one that includes loss of vision, nausea, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. And those are just the common side effects. Some sufferers find themselves yawning compulsively, slurring their speech, and losing sensation on one side of their bodies. Some migraineurs (yes, that is the technically accurate moniker for migraine sufferers) start seeing big things as small—a side effect dubbed “Alice in Wonderland syndrome” by doctors.

Nonetheless, for as long as they have existed, migraines have been trivialized as headaches, or dismissed altogether. Which is clear when you look at the treatments available: Almost every drug used between 1550 B.C. and today has been a repurposed one. Poultices of opium and honey, Botox, antidepressants—drugs whose efficacy was not intended but stumbled upon. Triptan, a class of vessel constrictors created to abort (not prevent) attacks at their onset, was released in 1991 and has been the only class of drug created specifically for migraines—that is, until now. On May 17, a preventative drug called Aimovig, 30 years in the making, gained FDA approval; it’s a monthly shot that modulates patients’ levels of CGRP, a neurotransmitter whose levels rise during migraine attacks. This means that it could be in the hands (or arms—it’s injectable) of migraineurs within the month.

That it took until 2018 to produce a drug that could help up to 39 million people in the United States alone was also owing to a

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