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Health News Review

The media are awash with neatly packaged stories about headache medications, surgeries and treatments. These stories purportedly keep patients and the public abreast of relevant headache and health news, but often leave more questions than they answer. The website Health News Review helps the public evaluate the claims of medical news stories by rating the stories on their accuracy, balance and completeness.

Each story is given a satisfactory or unsatisfactory mark in each of the following categories:

  • Novelty of treatment
  • Availability of treatment
  • Treatment options
  • Disease mongering
  • Quality of evidence
  • Quantifying treatment benefits
  • Treatment harms
  • Treatment costs
  • Sources of information
  • Reliance on press release

These marks are translated into percentage scores and then into star ratings, which appear with every story. A story on Trexima, the not-so-novel migraine med, has been rated on the site. The story received 0 of 5 stars, as it was unsatisfactory in each of the review categories.

Even more helpful the the stars, there is a specific explanation for every category that is marked unsatisfactory. In the Trexima story, the unsatisfactory rated is explained as:

“The story gives no quantitative evidence from trials on Trexima or other migraine medication delivery methods. There is anecdotal evidence from two people whose migraine pain decreased (but didn’t stop completely) with the combination drug. In a trial of 50 mg sumatriptan and 500mg of naproxen sodium there was greater pain-relief for acute migraines than either drug alone or placebo (Smith, T.R., A. Sunshine, et al. (2005). ‘Sumatriptan and naproxen sodium for the acute treatment of migraine.’ Headache 45(8): 983-91.)

I’m impressed by what I’ve seen so far — and not just because I agree with every point they make about Trexima. As often as modern medicine is presented as magical, this tool is a reminder that fairy godmothers don’t wear white coats and stethoscopes.

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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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FDA to Review “New” Migraine Drug

The FDA has accepted for review a “new” migraine drug, Trexima, that was developed by Pozen for sale by GlaxoSmithKline. Trexima is a combination of sumitriptan (Imitrex) and naproxen sodium (the ingredient in Aleve).

Hmm, could this be GSK’s desperate attempt to hold the patent (set to expire in 2009) on a drug that brings in loads of money? Patients who spend small fortunes on triptans each year would probably be willing to forego the convenience of taking one pill instead of two.

You gotta love CNN’s headline: Glaxo’s New Drug May Save Migraine Sales. Who knew that you could buy and sell migraine. I’d be happy to put mine up for sale. Think anyone would buy it on eBay?