Show 1294: New treatments for migraines

This week on our nationally broadcast radio show, we learn about the most common neurological disease that humans suffer from. Just in time for the Migraine World Summit, we’ll be discussing new treatments for migraines. Recent advances include prevention methods as well as symptom relief.

What are the new treatments for migraines?

For decades, migraine sufferers had limited options for relieving the crippling pain, nausea, and aversion to light, sound, or smell that so often accompanies an attack. Conventional painkillers such as aspirin or acetaminophen have worked for some people from time to time, but only if taken very early in the attack.


Ergotamine (for example Cafergot) also offered relief, but not for everyone. Although it has fallen out of favor for years, a new nasal spray formulation, Trudhesabrought it back to the forefront of migraine symptom relief.


In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies developed drugs such as sumatriptan (Imitrex). Most of them have been injected, a benefit when nausea prevents swallowing pills.

Prevention and treatment:

In recent years, people with frequent migraines have been able to take preventive medications that have become available relatively recently. Drugs like erenumab (Aimovig), fremenezumab (Ajovy) or galcanezumab (Equality) are monthly injections that can significantly reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks.

There are also new drugs that can cut short an attack. As with other migraine treatments, these also work best when taken at the first sign of a problem. Many people (but not all) report that a migraine has a premonitory phase, which can include a visual aura. This alerts the patient to an impending attack and may allow action to be taken to avoid it.

What’s it like to have migraines?

To understand the personal impact of frequent migraines, we talk to Paula Dumas about her experience. At worst, Paula suffered from devastating migraines 25 days a month. She calculates that she lost about a decade of her life to migraine. To help others avoid this fate, she provides information on her own site,, and helps produce the Migraine World Summit.

What is the Global Migraine Summit?

This conference brings together experts from various fields to offer updates that can help migraine sufferers. This year it starts on March 16 and ends on March 24. The organizers publish four expert interviews each day, and visitors can watch them for free for 24 hours.

What are the other new treatments for migraines?

In addition to the monoclonal antibodies used in prevention, doctors can now prescribe another class of drugs to prevent migraines. These include drugs such as atogepant (Qulipta) and rimegepant (ODT Nurtec). Nurtec can also treat migraines and prevent them. People who experience headaches more than four days a month could ask their health care provider if prevention would be appropriate.

Guests this week:

Paula K. Dumas is a leading health advocate and educator, producer of the Migraine World Summit, and founder of After juggling a demanding career with CNN, Apple and Disney, she shifted gears to focus on advocating for family, faith and health. Although she lost a decade of days to migraine, she was able to reduce her frequency from 25 days per month to less than one day per month. Now she helps others do the same.
@MigraineSummit on Twitter, @MigraineWorldSummit on Facebook and Instagram

The photo is by Paula Dumas.

Deborah I. Friedman, MD, MPH, is a professor in the Department of Neurology and Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. A neuro-ophthalmologist and specialist in headache medicine, Dr. Friedman is the founding director of UT Southwestern’s Headache and Facial Pain Program and is director of UTSW’s Intracranial Pressure Disorders Program. .

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast for this show will be available on Monday, March 21, 2022, after airing on March 19. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.

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