The wait for migraine relief can be reduced to minutes with a new FDA-approved nasal spray.
Pfizer’s Zavzpret was approved this month for the emergency treatment of adult migraine and is expected to go on sale in July.
“We have been waiting for this! This will be very helpful for people who have trouble taking pills because migraines make them very nauseous, or for those who have migraines that come on quickly,” says Sandya Mela, MD, Headache Specialist at the Center Headache Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute in Norwich. “Other treatments can take up to two hours to help.”
So, how does the spray work and who will benefit from this innovative new treatment? Dr. Mela explains.
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Who can benefit from nasal spray?
About 80 percent of migraine sufferers experience nausea during an attack.
“People who experience severe migraine nausea usually cannot take pills long enough for them to work. They drop it,” she explains. “Additionally, migraines cause many people to slow down their stomachs, which means the medications aren’t absorbed as well or as quickly as they should.”
On the other hand, squirting Zavzban into the nostrils will help patients feel relief much faster. Pfizer research suggests that the wait should be around 15 minutes.
“The nasal mucosa absorbs the medicine much faster,” says Dr. Mela.
> On the subject: Your migraine may be a sign of one of these 7 serious diseases
How Zavzpret differs from existing drugs?
Zavzpret joins a newer class of migraine medications called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors that stop pain once it starts. Currently, only tablet and dissolving tablet forms of CGRP inhibitors are available, notes Dr. Mela.
She also adds that Zavzban may help people who cannot take other triptan-containing nasal sprays, which has been correlated with a higher risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
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What is the science behind this?
Anti-CGRP agents such as Zavzpret block the binding of CGRP molecules to CGRP receptors in the body, a process that causes trigeminal pain and inflammation in migraines. The American Migraine Foundation called their introduction in 2021 “the biggest news in migraine treatment and prevention in decades.”
Molecules, says Dr. Mela, play a role in all migraine patients to some degree.
“These new agents were created for this activity,” she says.