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New Migraine Treatments, More Options for Relief

By November 25, 2019January 21st, 2022Employers Pharmacy
A woman suffering a migraine at her desk.

When it comes to the workplace, migraine headaches are much more than a headache for employers. As the third most prevalent illness in the world, migraines not only reduce quality of life, but they also have a negative impact on worker productivity. They may contribute to absenteeism, presenteeism, and increased stress. Each year, this neurological disease costs billions1 in lost productive time, with an estimated 157 million work days lost to migraines.

Migraine is a chronic condition characterized by episodic attacks of disabling headaches that can cause pain, nausea, light and sound sensitivity, or vomiting. These symptoms can last for hours or even days. It’s understandable that any announcement of new migraine treatments is cause for excitement for those affected and discussion of how to effectively manage them.

Recent Advancements in Migraine Medications

Some migraine medications help prevent migraines (prophylactic), and others are taken to lessen the severity once a migraine begins (abortive). Triptans (e.g., Imitrex®, Zomig®) are in a class of medications commonly used as an abortive treatment; however, certain patients cannot tolerate triptans due to cardiovascular risks or other side effects.

Within the last year, there’s been a lot of buzz about new migraine treatments, starting with three new prophylactic medications — Aimovig™, Ajovy™, and Emgality™ — that were approved by the FDA in 2018.

These three medications form a new drug class called CGRP inhibitors. The medications in this drug class are unique because they:

  • Directly target calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a substance released from the nerve associated with pain in the head and face
  • Are administered by injection
  • Require infrequent dosing (typically monthly)

One additional medication, Reyvow™, also recently received FDA approval. Reyvow™ is similar to triptans, but it has shown reduced cardiovascular risk, including vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels).

New CGRPs are expected to be available soon. Ubrelvy™ (ubrogepant) recently received approval by the FDA for the acute treatment of migraines. Rimegepant is also seeking for FDA approval for the acute treatment of migraines. These two differ from the others in this drug class because they are taken orally after an acute migraine begins.

Once they’re approved and available, these new migraine treatments will likely be prescribed for those who don’t respond or have contraindications to first‑line therapies.

How Independence Helps You Manage Migraine Medications

Independence is committed to providing access to the latest treatments available so our members can stay as healthy and productive as possible while managing the overall cost of care.

To learn more about Independence Blue Cross prescription drug programs, please reach out to us.

1Burton, WN, Landy, SH, Downs, KE, Runken, MC. The Impact of Migraine and the Effect of Migraine Treatment on Workplace Productivity in the United States and Suggestions for Future Research. Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 May; 84(5): 436–445.


Lisa Liburd

I joined Independence Blue Cross in 2003 as a clinical pharmacist and have served as the Director of Clinical Pharmacy since 2014. My work here focuses on managing our drug formularies in a way that is both cost-effective and provides our members access to the medications they need. I earned a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and an MBA from Drexel University.