Four Companies In The Fray For New-Approach Migraine Drug

Research meds Migraines

CGRP antibodies – New thrust area in migraine drug development for 4 companies (1)

At last we are hopeful of receiving drugs that are developed only for migraines and not hand-me-downs – drugs originally developed for conditions other than migraines but which sometimes also seem to work for migraineurs and are thus prescribed to us.

This year’s drug development focus is on calcitonin gene-related peptide or CGRP. I had written about CGRP in my earlier post of March 2012 — ‘CGRP Blockers & SRAs – The New Faces In Research For Migraine Management’ (

CGRP is a neuropeptide (- protein-like molecules used by neurons to communicate with one another) that as per earlier research shows it to be involved in both the initiation of migraine signalling in the brain as well as the propagation of the migraine process in an episode for a person.

Though both Merck and Boehringer have been targeting CGRPs as the root of migraine treatment for many years and their resultant drug Telcagepant was in Phase III of trials, further trials were halted as one unrelated molecule (to CGRP biology) was found to be causing unacceptable drug toxicity.

However, 4 companies, namely, Arteaus Therapeutics, Labrys, Amgen and Alder Biopharmaceuticals are in stages of developing migraine treatment via the CGRP route – they are using monoclonal antibodies to inhibit CGRP biology that will eliminate the toxicity factor that was seen in Merck and Boehringer’s beta drug. (2)

So why are four companies vying for the same space in the migraine drug market? It has got to do with the treatment area being target as well as the cost.

First, the target: Using an antibody to treat migraine involves developing of antibodies which have long half-lives. This means that once administered (let’s say via the injection route) will be effective for one or more months, thus preventing the initiation of migraines for multiple months. This is in sharp contrast to the current abortive drugs from the triptan family. This seems god-sent for migraineurs who experience multiple attacks a month.

Second, the costs: So far, the drawback of an antibody approach has been the high cost of manufacturing such drugs. High costs translate to high retail prices and though higher prices are not minded by those who require them for conditions such as cancer, autoimmune or cardiovascular etc., migraineurs are sensitive to drug pricing. But common sense says, with more companies midway through drug development using the same approach, the prices are guaranteed to be competitive when the drug reaches the market.

The data from the mid-stage studies on the new antibody drug from these four companies are expected as early as next year.  It can only be good news for migraineurs that competition is on with more than one horse in the fray to develop these drugs.


  1. Image Credit: Cooldesign; Image name: Test Tubes;; Web September 2013;
  2. Industry Voices: Place your bets–A horse race emerges in the migraine space;; Web September 2013;

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