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Cloudy Weather & Rain a Migraine Trigger

Clouds equal migraines for me, it’s that simple. In my six years in Seattle, I refused to recognize that I felt better when I was visiting Phoenix or vacationing at a sunny destination, always thinking it was because I took medication while traveling or forced myself to do more than I did at home. Moving to Boston in 2009, where the weather changes regularly, and keeping a headache diary forced me to admit the connection between clouds and the severity of my migraines.

In the 14 months I lived in Boston, a “good day” meant I had between one and three hours of feeling well enough to be off the couch. On average, I got this respite twice a month. In the “good” time, I’d go to the farmers’ market, get groceries or, occasionally, treat myself to a trip to the arboretum. Sometimes I’d do housework with glee (cleaning and pleasure had, until last year, been mutually exclusive). Rarely was I able to make a doctor’s appointment on my own. Hart would have to leave work to take me. Running errands was an epic accomplishment. Hell, shaving my legs was nearly as exciting as a night on the town (an impossibility for at least five years.) Except for the five Dave Matthews Band and six Phish shows, which I absolutely refuse to miss because they are so restorative, I had no life.

The best news I’ve had in 10 years is that I’ve finally found an effective treatment. Hart and I are moving to Phoenix. To all of you whose migraines are triggered by weather, I’m sorry to say that my remedy is so extreme. He and I are fortunate to have grown up there. Our friends and family are there. Our roots are there.

Wait, I should say they are here. I’ve effectively moved, living at my mom’s house for the last three weeks. Hart will visit in a couple weeks, then join me at the end of January. To make this move happen, Hart will be leaving his dream job. He’ll stay with the same company, but his role won’t be the same. While we’d both rather this not be the case, the prospect of getting a life (and his wife!) back far outweighs the cost.

My solution is nowhere near perfect. I’m far from migraine-free in Phoenix and the background headache is ever-present. Even with the sky a brilliant blue, I still have a migraine every day. But each migraine is a distinct episode. That is, they end. Whereas I’m used to one migraine running into another, happy when I have even an hour-long break, the ones I have in Phoenix often only last six hours. Sometimes a Midrin, a naproxen and a nap will reduce the duration to two hours. I leave the house nearly every day.

Yes, that’s right, I leave the house nearly every day. I’m not exaggerating to say it feels like a miracle.

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Rebound Headaches a Risk With Trexima

“Do you need a naproxen dose every time you need a triptan dose?” Headache specialist Christina Peterson weighed in on the Trexima discussion with that brilliant question.

As bad as it is to make money by ill-informing consumers, that’s nothing compared to the possibility of worsening patients’ headaches.

Dr. Peterson pointed out that “many [headache specialists] recommend combining them–as an initial dose at headache onset. The potential danger could lie in a second or further subsequent dose.” This danger comes from medication overuse headache (commonly referred to as rebound headache or MOH).

This is as it sounds: Taking too many painkillers (and some other drugs) can lead to more frequent headaches. These more frequent headaches lead to taking more painkillers. And the cycle goes on.

So, while taking naproxen with the first dose of Imitrex during a migraine can be helpful, taking it with further doses can lead to more harm in the long run. As Dr. Peterson says, it’s unlikely that insurance companies are going to be willing to pay for a prescription for Trexima and one for plain old Imitrex in the same month.

Here’s her full comment:

No. That question, which desperately needs to be answered, has not been answered. That head-to-head study has not been done. Why? Nobody stands to gain financially from the answer. Nobody except, of course, you and me–the consumers.

True–there is not likely to be any advantage of Trexima over taking an Imitrex plus an equivalent dose of naproxen sodium. There is no voodoo in the combination.

Could there be harm, though? This is why the FDA is taking so long to look at Trexima. I don’t think the concept of sumatriptan (or any other triptan) plus naproxen sodium is inherently dangerous. Many of us recommend combining them–as an initial dose at headache onset. The potential danger could lie in a second or further subsequent dose. Do you need a naproxen dose every time you need a triptan dose?

I have concerns that in the hands of doctors and patients who do not understand the intricacies of medication overuse headache–i.e., most–this combination product could result in an increased risk of excessive dosing in the frequent headache sufferer, possibly resulting in an increased number of headaches.

And I think we all know how slim the likelihood is that an insurance carrier will reimburse both a prescription of Trexima and plain Imitrex in a given month.

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Trexima Aborts Migraines Better Than Imitrex or Aleve Alone

The new drug Trexima, a combination of Imitrex and Aleve (naproxen), “can provide faster, long-lasting relief of migraine pain than using either drug alone,” according to results of a study published in yesterday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the study, Trexima relieved headaches within two hours in as many as 65% of participants, compared to 28% with the placebo. About 55% said Imitrex alone provided relief and as many as 44% said that naproxen did.

So it’s better than either drug alone, but is Trexima is more effective than taking Imitrex and naproxen at the same time? I’ve never seen this question answered. It’s a huge issue for patients because the Imitrex patent expires in 2009. Trexima extends profits from Imitrex because selling it in Trexima sales will cut into overall sales of Imitrex.

I get the arguments for using Trexima even if there’s no difference. Patients are more likely to take one medication than two. They also may have more faith in prescribed meds than over-the-counter drugs, which naproxen is. But would patients who can’t afford the brand-name drug be aware that they can get the same effect for much less money?

If Trexima is not more effective than taking Imitrex and naproxen in
separate pills, physicians assume responsibility for giving patients the
choice. At the very least, they should tell patients the different efficacy rates between the two. Some will for sure, but many others will follow the masses of drug rep cheerleaders.

GSK‘s foothold on the ethical side of the line is tenuous. I don’t begrudge a company earning money, but knowing the drug’s success rides on the pharmaceutical industry’s phenomenal marketing, patients will undoubtably lose.

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Trexima Study Presented at AAN Meeting

Just when I was ready to concede that Trexima might provide a migraine treatment better than existing meds, I read the fine print.

The articles say that 57-65% of participants who took Trexima, which combines Imitrex with naproxen (a NSAID, a relative to Advil), reported pain relief after two hours. In comparison, 50-55% of participants who took Imitrex and 28-29% who took a placebo reported relief after two hours. After four hours the percentages rose to 72-78% for Trexima, 61-66% for Imitrex and 37% for the placebo.

The treatment that most accurately compares to Trexima is Imitrex taken simultaneously with naproxen. Why wasn’t this combination studied? My guess is that including this comparison wouldn’t show enough of a difference between the two treatments to justify the FDA approving Trexima as a new drug. Thus, not allowing GSK to continue holding the Imitrex patent.

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UK Approves Migraine Drug for Marketing

British regulators have approved Pozen’s MT 100, a drug that combines naproxen (which is what’s in Aleve) and metoclopramide (Reglan, an anti-nausea med), for marketing in the UK. migraineurs without nausea are the drug’s target market. Yes, you read that right — migraineurs without nausea. Metoclopramide is said to increase the speed by which the body absorbs naproxen, bringing pain relief more quickly.

Pozen stopped developing MT 100 for sale in the US in August after an FDA advisory panel raised concerns about possible side effects. The panel said that the risk of tardive dyskinesia, a neurological disorder where patients suffer from involuntary movements, was greater than the drug’s potential benefits. Furthermore, the FDA wasn’t convinced of the necessity of this combination of drugs in one pill.