Literature Review

Updated consensus statement assesses new migraine treatments



An updated consensus statement from the American Headache Society (AHS) offers detailed recommendations on the use of novel acute and preventive treatments in adult patients with migraine.

“Because the benefit–risk profiles of newer treatments will continue to evolve as clinical trial and real-world data accrue, the American Headache Society intends to review this statement regularly and update, if appropriate, based on the emergence of evidence with implications for clinical practice,” wrote lead author Jessica Ailani, MD, of the department of neurology at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, and colleagues. The statement was published in Headache.

To assess recent data on the efficacy, safety, and clinical use of newly introduced acute and preventive migraine treatments, the AHS convened a small task force to review relevant literature published from December 2018 through February 2021. The society’s board of directors, along with patients and patient advocates associated with the American Migraine Foundation, also provided pertinent commentary.

New migraine treatment

Five recently approved acute migraine treatments were specifically noted: two small-molecule calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonists – rimegepant and ubrogepant – along with the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib, the serotonin 5-HT1F agonist lasmiditan, and remote electrical neuromodulation (REN). Highlighted risks include serious cardiovascular thrombotic events in patients on celecoxib, along with driving impairment, sleepiness, and the possibility of overuse in patients on lasmiditan. The authors added, however, that REN “has shown good tolerability and safety in clinical trials” and that frequent use of rimegepant or ubrogepant does not appear to lead to medication-overuse headache.

Regarding acute treatment overall, the statement recommended nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), nonopioid analgesics, acetaminophen, or caffeinated analgesic combinations – such as aspirin plus acetaminophen plus caffeine – for mild to moderate attacks. For moderate or severe attacks, they recommended migraine-specific agents such as triptans, small-molecule CGRP receptor antagonists (gepants), or selective serotonin 5-HT1F receptor agonists (ditans). No matter the prescribed treatment, the statement pushed for patients to “treat at the first sign of pain to improve the probability of achieving freedom from pain and reduce attack-related disability.”

The authors added that 30% of patients on triptans have an “insufficient response” and as such may benefit from a second triptan or – if certain criteria are met – switching to a gepant, a ditan, or a neuromodulatory device. They also recommended a nonoral formulation for patients whose attacks are often accompanied by severe nausea or vomiting.

More broadly, they addressed the tolerability and safety issues associated with certain treatments, including the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects of NSAIDs and the dangers of using triptans in patients with coronary artery disease or other vascular disorders. And while gepants and ditans appeared in clinical trials to be safe choices for patients with stable cardiovascular disease, “benefit-risk should be assessed in each patient as the real-world database for these therapies grows,” they wrote.

Only one recently approved preventive treatment – eptinezumab, an intravenous anti-CGRP ligand monoclonal antibody (MAB) – was highlighted. The authors noted that its benefits can begin within 24 hours, and it can reduce acute medication use and therefore the risk of medication-overuse headache.

Regarding preventive treatments overall, the authors stated that prevention should be offered if patients suffer from 6 or more days of headache per month, or 3-4 days of headache plus some-to-severe disability. Preventive treatments should be considered in patients who range from at least 2 days of headache per month plus severe disability to 4 or 5 days of headache. Prevention should also be considered in patients with uncommon migraine subtypes, including hemiplegic migraine, migraine with brainstem aura, and migraine with prolonged aura.


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