As the sixth-most debilitating disease, migraine is an important challenge being tackled by biopharmaceutical researchers today. Far more than a “bad headache,” migraine affects one in every six Americans and twice as many women than men, impacting productivity and personal relationships in patients’ lives. Collectively, it is estimated that employers lose $21.5 million every year due to migraine-related absences from the workplace and $24.4 million due to lowered on-the-job efficiency.

Migraine pain can be so severe that in a survey recently released by Eli Lilly and Company and conducted by Nielsen, respondents rated the worst migraine pain as higher than both the pain associated with kidney stones and broken bones. Ninety-one percent of respondents with migraine further agreed that those who do not experience migraine pain do not have a complete understanding of its severity, nor the far-reaching impacts on a person’s day-to-day life, as the disease manifests itself in unpredictable and disruptive ways.

Until recently, there were no preventative options specifically related to migraine. For many patients, existing treatments were either hard to tolerate or not effective.

That is changing with the advent of CGRP inhibitors, which could save $400 billion over the next 10 years, through productivity gains associated with fewer migraine days. This new type of treatment blocks the absorption of calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP, a protein that is known to cause migraine through inflammation. In May of 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first CGRP inhibitor specifically designed to prevent migraine. Two more medicines in the class followed with approvals in September 2018.

If all migraine sufferers who do not currently use a preventive medicine used CGRP inhibitors, there could be 374 million fewer migraine days for patients. The significant loss of productivity for migraine patients makes it an important outcome to consider in any measurement of value of migraine treatments.

More migraine treatments are currently in development; as of May 2018, there are 27 medicines in development for headache, which includes migraine.

Reducing unnecessary suffering resulting from migraine is beneficial to both individual patients and to society. That’s why America’s biopharmaceutical researchers are hard at work to continue to improve treatment options every day.

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