In 2018 the FDA approved three new medications to treat migraine.1 These medications are known by the brand names Aimovig, Emgality, and Ajovy. All three medications are in a class called calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors (CGRPs).
CGRPs developed to treat migraine
CGRPs are a type of medication called monoclonal antibodies.1 Traditional medications are usually a combination of chemical ingredients mixed together. Monoclonal antibodies are different from traditional medications because they are made of long strands of proteins. They are developed in a laboratory and often from living cells.2 CGRPs were the first monoclonal antibodies developed to treat migraine.
Keeping track of side effects after FDA approval
All medications have side effects. We learn about many side effects during a medication’s clinical trial phase. There may be side effects we do not know about when medications are approved for use. The United States Food and Drug Administration has a site to report side effects of approved medications.3 This is called the Food and Drug Administration Adverse Events Reporting System (FAERS).
The most common side effects reported in CGRPs
Doctors decided to look at FAERS and see there were any newly reported side effects in CGRPs. Here are the most common side effects that they found:3,4
- Injection Problems: This were the most common side effect in almost all of the medications. All three medications are self-administered injections. People experienced using the wrong technique, accidental exposure, under-dosing, and even not getting any dose. These side effects can be prevented. Patients need to be properly trained in using the injection device before starting the medication. These side effects occurred in less than 0.5 percent to 0.1 percent of people who use CGRPs.
- Injection Site Reactions: All three medications caused injection site reactions. This means that people had some kind of reaction at the place where the needle enters the skin. These reactions included pain, swelling, itching, and/or rash at the injection site. These reactions happened in 0.3 percent or less of the people who use CGRPs.
- Headache or Migraine: Unfortunately, we know that no medication works for every person who tries it. Some people who use CGRPs still experience headaches and migraine attacks.