Thousands of people in England and Wales who suffer from migraines could benefit from a drug that has been approved on the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), the drugs regulator, said it was recommending eptinezumab for preventing migraine in about 164,000 adults where at least three previous preventive treatments had failed.
The drug, also called Vyepti, is taken in hospital every 12 weeks as an intravenous infusion.
The drug has been found to be as effective as three other drugs already approved for injection at home – erenumab, fremanezumab and galcanezumab.
All four medicines are calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors, which work by targeting how proteins cause blood vessels in the brain to swell.
Migraines are common, affecting around one in five women and around one in 15 men. They usually begin in early adulthood.
As well as throbbing head pain, many people suffer other symptoms such as feeling sick, being sick and increased sensitivity to light or sound.
Eptinezumab costs about £5,870 for a year’s treatment, though the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck has agreed to provide it to the NHS at a confidential discounted price, Nice said.
“Clinical opinion suggests that eptinezumab would be reserved for people with severe migraine attacks or who are unable to use treatments administered subcutaneously,” Nice said in a statement. “This may include people who struggle to self-administer the injections, such as those with needle phobia.”
The chief executive of the Migraine Trust, Rob Music, said: “While it is great news that there is another treatment option for people living with this painful, debilitating and exhausting brain disease, it’s crucial that those who are eligible can actually access it.
“This new class of drugs has been life-changing to many people with migraine in the UK. It has allowed many to do things that migraine had prevented them from doing, from being able to work full-time to being able to enjoy travelling.
“Unfortunately, too many people whose lives are currently being severely impacted by migraine, and who are eligible for these treatments, are unable to access them.
“As we start 2023, we hope that integrated care systems will do more to ensure that there is greater access to this potentially life changing treatment.”