NHS reviewing £19,000 a year pill endorsed by Khloe Kardashian that stops migraines in their tracks

ByDonald L. Leech

Sep 3, 2022

NHS reviewing £19,000 a year pill endorsed by Khloe Kardashian that stops migraines in their tracks

  • The pill, rimegepant, is available in the US where it costs patients £19,000 a year
  • Health watchdog NICE plans to clear the new drug for use in the spring
  • Experts say the drug is more convenient than the current self-injection regimen

Millions of NHS patients who suffer from debilitating migraine attacks could soon benefit from a pill that prevents them before they have a chance to strike.

The tablet, taken every other day, could be approved for use next spring, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) prescription watchdog.

Experts say it’s much more convenient than the current gold standard treatment of monthly self-injections.

Called rimegepant, the pill blocks the activation of a protein in the brain known to trigger migraine attacks. Studies show that it can halve the frequency of moderate to severe headaches. It is also effective in relieving migraines when taken within minutes of their onset.

The tablet, taken every other day, could be approved for use next spring, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) prescription watchdog.

Called rimegepant, the drug is endorsed by Khloe Kardashian.  It costs US patients £19,000 a year, but experts predict the drug's maker ¿Biohaven Pharmaceuticals¿ will offer the NHS a steep discount

Called rimegepant, the drug is endorsed by Khloe Kardashian. It costs US patients £19,000 a year, but experts predict the drug’s maker – Biohaven Pharmaceuticals – will give the NHS a hefty discount

The drug – endorsed by reality TV star and migraine sufferer Khloe Kardashian – is approved in the EU. Last July, the UK regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), gave the go-ahead for its use.

Insiders told the Mail on Sunday that the drug will be available to patients in UK private clinics this month. NICE will decide by March whether it is cost-effective for the NHS.

The pill is estimated to cost patients in the US around £19,000 a year, but experts predict the drug’s maker – Biohaven Pharmaceuticals – will offer the NHS a steep discount.

Dr Brendan Davies, consultant neurologist at North Midlands NHS Trust University Hospitals in Stoke, described the drug as life changing. He says: “Migraines are an under-recognized disease that has always been difficult to treat. The impact on people’s lives can be debilitating. Some lose their jobs because they are forced to spend several days a week in bed.

“But rimegepant adds another useful option, which will be particularly welcome for those with a phobia of needles.”

About 10 million people in the UK suffer from migraines – a throbbing headache on one side of the head. Attacks can involve a host of symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, nausea, and seeing flashing lights. They are thought to be triggered by nerves and blood vessels in the front of the brain that release excessive amounts of a protein called calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP. This is responsible for transporting vital signals between brain cells.

Current treatments for migraine include over-the-counter painkillers and tablets – triptans – which help interrupt pain signals. While these can ease symptoms once migraines start, they cannot prevent them.

They also cause drowsiness and other headaches if taken too often, and cannot be used by those with a history of strokes and heart attacks.

Most treatments to prevent migraines were developed for other conditions and often come with serious side effects. These include beta-blockers and antidepressants, both of which also cause drowsiness.

Over the past two years, health chiefs have approved several other CGRP-inhibiting drugs – erenumab, galcanezumab and fremanezumab – which are taken as monthly injections. These jabs prevent migraines and relieve symptoms. They also have fewer side effects than previous options, with only around 2% of patients reporting nausea.

While rimegepant will be the first CGRP inhibitor in tablet form offered in the UK, experts have been concerned about whether patients will be able to access it.

Last July, The Mail on Sunday revealed that thousands of migraine patients were being denied injections.

Campaigners partly blamed the stringent criteria patients must meet to be eligible, including failure of three drugs and experiencing at least 15 migraine days per month.

“We are concerned anti-CGRP is still not reaching those who need it via the NHS,” says Dan Tickle of the National Migraine Center. “There are a lot of patients who have to wait months to get them. Patients should not be afraid to ask their GP for the shots or contact the National Migraine Centre.

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