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Relief for Migraine Sufferers: New Treatments Available

A businessman suffers a headache at work

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.

Loss of Productivity

According to the Harvard Business Review, studies show that productivity lost due to migraine headaches costs U.S. employers at least $13 billion. Employees with migraines miss an average of 4.4 workdays per year due to migraine attacks, and they spend another 11.4 days per year with reduced productivity, which can cost employers even more than actual absences.

Migraines are a chronic condition that affect nearly 40 million individuals in the U.S today. Migraines are characterized by episodic attacks of disabling headaches that can cause pain, nausea, light and sound sensitivity, or vomiting. The severity of these symptoms can range from mild to severe, and symptoms can last for hours — or even days. Recently, there have been many advancements in migraine treatment options, creating opportunities for better management and increased quality of life.

Recent Advancements in Migraine Medications

Some migraine medications help prevent migraines (prophylactic), while others can reduce the severity of a migraine while it’s happening (abortive). Within the past few years, there have been four new prophylactic medications and three new abortive medications approved.

Migraine prevention: Aimovig™, Ajovy™, and Emgality™ were approved by the FDA in 2018 for migraine prevention, and the newest agent, Vyepti™, was approved in 2020 as the first intravenous (IV) infusion for migraine prevention in adults.

Migraine treatment: Ubrelvy™ and Nurtec™ are new treatment options approved by the FDA in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

These six 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 received FDA approval in 2019 for the acute treatment of migraines. Reyvow is similar to triptans, but it has shown reduced cardiovascular risk, including vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels).

How Independence Helps Members 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. Independence covers Aimovig, Emgality, Vyepti, Ubrelvy, Nurtec, and Reyvow*, so that our members can enjoy an improved quality of life and employers can see improved productivity.

*Check your specific benefits to determine eligibility.
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.