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Brainstorm Health: Migraine Drugs, Zika Gene Vaccine, Weight Loss and Diabetes

December 5, 2017, 7:56 PM UTC

Hey there, readers! This is Sy.

Migraines are the Big Bads in the world of headaches, to appropriate a TV trope. They often show up preceded by warning signs—literally called “auras”—that may mess with your vision, cause mood changes, and even induce auditory hallucinations. Once they really get going, migraines can last for days while making it difficult to deal with even semi-bright light and may nausea and vomiting. Some truly unfortunate souls can experience these debilitating episodes frequently; and, unfortunately, the current treatment landscape centers on certain migraine symptoms rather than the root causes of the condition itself.

But two new drugs could change the way we treat migraines altogether, according to a pair of large studies published in a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The condition is complex and can be affected by multiple factors, which is partly why it’s so difficult to treat, the study authors note. That’s why the go-to medical route usually involves therapies meant for other conditions, such as blood pressure or depression medicines. But the two drugs being explored—fremanezumab and erenumab‬—are antibodies that go after parts of the brain at the crux of migraine-induced pain. And they’ve shown promise in preventing many of the most frustrating migraine symptoms, from the nausea to the visual-auditory effects to the headaches themselves. In fact, some of the chronic migraine patients in the studies had no migraines at all following treatment.

Now, here’s the twist: The placebo arm of the study also had significant drops in migraine frequency (although not as much as the participants taking the actual drugs did). Still, the effects were significant enough that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may well give it the green light, especially given the dearth of available disease-specific options.

Then again, you could always go with the wrinkle-fighter Botox, which is also approved to treat migraines (seriously).

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


There's a gene-based Zika vaccine and it's showing early promise. Early stage clinical trials of a Zika vaccine created by government researchers may be effective at immunizing people against the virus, which can cause serious birth defects in the newborn children of infected pregnant women. The National Institutes of Health says that the treatment—which uses DNA fragments that have certain genes inserted into them in order to produce proteins found on Zika virus surfaces—was able to provoke a response from the immune system with few side effects. (NIH)


Novo Nordisk gets a clutch diabetes win. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved European diabetes drug specialist Novo Nordisk's Ozempic—a much-needed victory for a pharmaceutical giant that has been grappling with ever-increasing competition in the diabetes market and pushback from insurance companies. Ozempic, if Novo's plans succeed, could help the company claw back some market share in the space from competitors like Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca. (Reuters)


Weight loss really could help reverse diabetes. A study published in the journal Lancet suggests that weight loss may indeed be able to reverse type 2 diabetes, suggesting the metabolic disorder has the potential to go into remission with lifestyle changes. Still, the early studies of diet plans were only effective for those at the earlier stages of the disease. (Fortune)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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