An experimental drug that slows blood flow in the brain knocks out migraine headaches in some people, researchers report in the March 11 New England Journal of Medicine.
The drug, known only as BIBN 4096 BS so far, competes in the body with the natural compound CGRP, or calcitonin gene-related peptide, says study coauthor Jes Olesen of the University of Copenhagen and Glostrup Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. Previous studies have suggested that CGRP exacerbates migraine headaches by dilating blood vessels supplying the brain. In fact, giving extra CGRP to a person can initiate a migraine attack. BIBN 4096 BS intervenes by
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displacing CGRP where it attaches to blood-vessel and nerve cells.
Olesen and his coworkers gave a 10-minute infusion of the drug to 85 people in the throes of migraines. Another 41 migraine sufferers received inert infusions.
The drug wiped out headaches in 10 people during the first 2 hours and 34 patients during the first 4 hours. Only 1 person getting a placebo reported no headache at the 2-hour mark, and 4 noticed their headaches had disappeared by 4 hours.
Unlike migraine drugs that constrict blood vessels, BIBN 4096 BS doesn’t seem to affect blood vessels in the heart or elsewhere outside the brain, says Paul L. Durham of Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, writing in the same journal. Therefore, it “may provide an alternative for treatment of migraine” without unwanted effects, he concludes.