Medical Technology

New Antimigraine Drugs Linked With Less Risk for Adverse Events

New classes of antimigraine drugs demonstrate efficacy and improved tolerability for patients with chronic migraine, a new systematic review and meta-analysis finds.

“[T]he lack of cardiovascular risks of these new classes of migraine-specific treatments may provide alternative treatment options for individuals for whom currently available acute treatments have failed or for those with cardiovascular contraindications,” write lead author Chun-Pai Yang, MD, PhD, of Taichung (Taiwan) Veterans General Hospital and colleagues, in the paper, published online in JAMA Network Open.


The new study compared the outcomes for acute migraine management using the ditan, lasmiditan (a 5-hydroxytryptamine [5HT]1F–receptor agonist), and the two gepants, rimegepant, and ubrogepant (calcitonin gene–related peptide [CGRP] antagonists), with standard triptan (selective 5-HT1B/1D–receptor agonist) therapy.

The researchers evaluated 64 double-blind randomized clinical trials which included 46,442 patients, the majority of whom (74%-87%) were women with an age range of 36-43 years.

The primary outcome evaluated was the odds ratio for freedom from pain at 2 hours after a single dose and secondary outcomes were the OR for pain relief at 2 hours following a dose, as well as any adverse events.


Yang and colleagues found that virtually all medications with widespread clinical use, regardless of class, were associated with higher ORs for pain freedom when compared with placebo.

Compared to ditan and gepant agents, however, triptans were associated with significantly higher ORs for pain freedom. The odds ratio ranges were 1.72-3.40 for lasmiditan, 1.58-3.13 for rimegepant, and 1.54-3.05 for ubrogepant.

With respect to pain relief at 2 hours, while all medications were more effective than placebo, triptans were associated with higher ORs when compared with the other drug classes: lasmiditan (range: OR, 1.46; 95% confidence interval, 1.09-1.96 to OR, 3.31; 95% CI, 2.41-4.55), rimegepant (range: OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.01-1.76 to OR, 3.01; 95% CI, 2.33-3.88), and ubrogepant (range: OR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.02-1.88 to OR, 3.13; 95% CI, 2.35-4.15)

When assessing tolerability, the researchers found that overall, triptans were associated with the higher ORs for any adverse events (AE) with a trend of dose-response relationship. Lasmiditan (in the ditan class) was associated with the highest risk for AEs among all treatments. Most of the AEs were mild to moderate and included chest pain, tightness, heaviness, and pressure.

Yang and colleagues note that, “although these two new classes of antimigraine drugs may not be as efficacious as triptans, these novel abortive agents without cardiovascular risks might offer an alternative to current specific migraine treatments for patients at risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Balancing Efficacy and Tolerability

“When choosing an acute medication for a patient there is always a balance between efficacy and tolerability,” headache specialist and associate director of North Shore Headache and Spine Lauren Natbony, MD, said in an interview.

“A medication can only be effective if a patient is able to tolerate it and will actually use it,” Natbony said.

With respect to the current review, Natbony pointed out, “response to acute therapy can differ between migraine attacks and may be based on variables not controlled for, such as how early in an attack the medication was taken, associated symptoms such as nausea that may make oral medications less efficacious, etc.”

The authors acknowledge that the focus on short-term responses and AEs after a single dose is a limitation of the study. They also pointed out what they considered to be a strength of the study, which was its network meta-analysis design. According to the authors, this design allowed for “multiple direct and indirect comparisons, ranking the efficacy and safety of individual pharmacologic interventions and providing more precise estimates than those of RCTs and traditional meta-analysis.”

Funding for this study was provided through grants from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan; the Brain Research Center; and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University.

Yang has received personal fees and grants from various pharmaceutical companies. He has also received grants from the Taiwan Ministry of Technology and Science, the Brain Research Center, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, and Taipei Veterans General Hospital outside the submitted work. The other authors and Natbony disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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