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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Jun 2024 - 7 Jun 2024

2024 May 31

CNS Drugs


Intervening in the Premonitory Phase to Prevent Migraine: Prospects for Pharmacotherapy.


Karsan N, Goadsby PJ


Migraine is a common brain condition characterised by disabling attacks of headache with sensory sensitivities. Despite increasing understanding of migraine neurobiology and the impacts of this on therapeutic developments, there remains a need for treatment options for patients underserved by currently available therapies. The first specific drugs developed to treat migraine acutely, the serotonin-5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT] receptor agonists (triptans), seem to require headache onset in order to have an effect, while early treatment during mild pain before headache escalation improves short-term and long-term outcomes. Some patients find treating in the early window once headache has started but not escalated difficult, and migraine can arise from sleep or in the early hours of the morning, making prompt treatment after pain onset challenging. Triptans may be deemed unsuitable for use in patients with vascular disease and in those of older age and may not be effective in a proportion of patients. Headache is also increasingly recognised as being just one of the many facets of the migraine attack, and for some patients it is not the most disabling symptom. In many patients, painless symptoms can start prior to headache onset and can reliably warn of impending headache. There is, therefore, a need to identify therapeutic targets and agents that may be used as early as possible in the course of the attack, to prevent headache onset before it starts, and to reduce both headache and non-headache related attack burden. Early small studies using domperidone, naratriptan and dihydroergotamine have suggested that this approach could be useful; these studies were methodologically less rigorous than modern day treatment studies, of small sample size, and have not since been replicated. The emergence of novel targeted migraine treatments more recently, specifically calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonists (gepants), has reignited interest in this strategy, with encouraging results. This review summarises historical and emerging data in this area, supporting use of the premonitory phase as an opportunity to intervene as early as possible in migraine to prevent attack-related morbidity.