There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for people who suffer from chronic or episodic migraine headaches. It's called Aimovig, and as a lifelong migraineur, the news that migraine sufferers can now get migraine-prevention drug Aimovig feels like winning the lottery. If you've tried everything to prevent migraines to no avail, Aimovig works by blocking your brain's CGRP receptor, which is thought to play a role in chronic and episodic migraine headaches, according to the Aimovig website.
In clinical trials, people with chronic migraines (15 or more headache days a month) who took the monthly injectable had up to seven fewer migraine days per month. Those with episodic migraine (four-to-14 headache days per month) had up to four fewer migraine days per month. Aimovig is a preventative prescription medication, so you have to get it from your doctor. It's also pretty pricey, $575 a month out of pocket, but Aimovig offers a two-month free trial for patients who meet certain criteria, and the website also has tools for working with your doctor and insurance provider to reduce the cost.
The availability of Aimovig is especially good news for women, who according to the Migraine Research Foundation, are three times more likely to experience migraine headaches than men. Because migraine headache is an invisible disease, more than 28 million women in the U.S. have long fought to be heard and to have their pain taken seriously.
Historically, the cause of migraine was thought to be "trifling domestic matters, like too much housework, or whether or not their husband was paying enough attention to them," Joanna Kempner, author of Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health, told Inverse. "Women with migraine were always treated as delicate creatures who couldn’t cope with their everyday lives."
If you've never had a migraine, there's nothing delicate about it, and migraine pain can take down even the most stoic person. Imagine the worst hangover you've ever had in your life and multiply that times 100. Migraine headaches can feel like an ice pick is repeatedly being driven into your eye, and they're accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. For women who suffer from chronic or episodic migraines, having up to 15 migraine days a month can significantly impact their ability to hold down a job, relationship, and live any kind of productive life.
Kempner and Neurologist William Young of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Headache Center published a study in the journal PLOS One that explores the stigma surrounding migraine headache that keeps many sufferers from getting necessary treatment. "It's invisible. It's not fatal," Kempner said in an article on Medical Xpress about the study. "We associate migraine with people who are weak or neurotic or who can't handle the stress of life. And very often we associate migraine with women."
Without a preventative medication, even when migraineurs have a non-headache day, the fear and anxiety of developing a migraine can keep them from making plans, which keeps sufferers in a cycle of fear, anxiety, and pain. While abortive medications have long been available, they need to be taken at the onset of a migraine. Once you're in the throes of a full-blown migraine, abortive medications can be as effective as breath mints. When this happens, the only option for stopping the pain is often a trip to the ER or urgent care to get a shot of powerful pain medication.
There are also a number of other preventative options, like BOTOX for migraines and drugs developed for other conditions that have also been found to prevent migraines. However, a host of unpleasant side effects keeps many migraineurs from taking them. According to their website, the most common side effects for Aimovig reported in clinical trials include redness or swelling at the injection site and constipation.
If you're interested in talking to your doctor about Aimovig, the website provides a quiz that can help you determine if it's right for you and will give you tools to have an informed conversation with your doctor. The website can also help you find a healthcare provider and deal with your insurance company.
With a new, and expensive drug, your insurance company will likely need evidence from your doctor that you have a documented history of migraine headaches and you've tried a required number of other migraine preventives that haven't worked, Dr. Amaal Starling, headache specialist at the Mayo Clinic, explained on Migraine.com. I have gone through this process, and depending on your insurance company, it can take some time, but don't give up.
The Aimovig website provides a form for your doctor to fill out to request coverage to make the process easier. If you have insurance through your job, the Aimovig Ally program can reduce your co-pay to $5 a month. The program also offers resources for those on Medicare or Medicaid, and for people who don't have health insurance or are underinsured. While all of this hoop jumping might feel daunting, let's all take a moment to rejoice that a preventative medication for migraine headaches exists at all. Because, your pain is real, and you deserve to live a headache-free life.