The drug has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But it belongs to a new class of medications called CGRP inhibitors that has come to the market in the past year.
CGRP is a small protein released by the trigeminal nerve during migraine attacks. It’s believed to play a key role in generating migraine misery, explained lead researcher Dr. Richard Lipton, who directs the Montefiore Headache Center at Albert Einstein Medical College in New York City.
The three approved CGRP inhibitors are all injection drugs that are used regularly, to prevent migraine attacks.
Ubrogepant is different because it’s a tablet that treats migraines in progress. Another oral “gepant,” called rimegepant, is also in the pipeline. Data on both drugs have been submitted to the FDA for approval, according to the companies developing them.
Of patients who used the real drug to treat a migraine attack, 22% of those on a higher dose were pain-free within two hours. That compared with 14% of the placebo group. Similarly, 39% of ubrogepant users were free of their “most bothersome” symptom within two hours, versus 27% of placebo users.
The study, funded by drug’s maker, Allergan, is published in the Nov. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to Lipton, the new gepants could make a “big difference” for certain migraine patients.
They include people who do not get relief from current acute treatments, and those who cannot take the medications because of side effects or safety concerns, Lipton said.
Right now, medications called triptans are the standard treatment for more severe migraine attacks. The drugs, which came out in the 1990s, stop migraines by stimulating receptors for the brain chemical serotonin, which reduces inflammation and constricts blood vessels.