12th March 2020

NICE gives chronic migraine patients access to ‘life changing’ new drug

Fremanezumab (Ajovy) has been approved for use within the NHS in England and Wales

We warmly welcome today’s announcement by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that fremanezumab (Ajovy) has been approved for use within the NHS in England and Wales for the treatment of chronic migraine.

The approval means that, for the first time, eligible migraine patients in England and Wales will join those in Scotland in having access to this new drug on the NHS.

Ajovy, manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals, is one of a new generation of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) drugs specifically designed to prevent migraine.

NICE has said that the drug should be available for patients living with chronic migraine who have already failed to respond to at least three other migraine preventive drugs.

Chronic migraine is when a person experiences fifteen or more headache days per month, including having a migraine on eight or more of those days. Migraine preventives are medicines usually taken daily to prevent or reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks. Current preventive options include drugs that have been developed for other conditions and then repurposed for migraine, such as beta blockers or anti-depressants.

Life-changing impact of treatment

We submitted evidence about the effectiveness and impact of this new class of CGRP drugs as part of the NICE appraisal process. Our evidence included the findings of our survey of over 200 chronic migraine patients who have recently taken this new class of medicine. The survey found that using a CGRP inhibitor drug improved the lives of 80% of respondents.

Gus Baldwin, our Chief Executive, said:

“We are delighted that for the first time chronic migraine patients across England and Wales will be able to access an effective drug on the NHS that has been specifically designed to prevent migraine attacks. Migraine is a painful, debilitating and exhausting brain disease and it is vital that people living with this awful condition have access to the best treatments available.

“We are particularly pleased that the patient evidence we submitted to NICE was referenced as a supporting factor in the approval granted today. We would like to thank NICE for listening to the voices of chronic migraine patients, who have been united in their call to be allowed access to this drug on the NHS. Many people we spoke to told us this drug had been ‘life-changing’ for them.

“We would also like to thank Teva for reaching an agreement with NICE that will allow more patients across the UK to access this drug. We’re now calling on the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to follow suit and endorse this guidance without delay so eligible migraine patients across the whole of the UK can access it.”

What patients think of this new class of CGRP drugs

Describing the impact of this new class of drugs, patients told us:

“My life has changed beyond recognition. I have been given the opportunity to live again. I can make plans, go places, do things, see people; none of this was possible before. For 45 years my life has been controlled by migraines, my personality, my identity. Now I am free to find out who I am and how I should live.”
“I have gone from 20-plus migraines a month to 3-4. This has been life-changing for me.”
"I have been given my life back, after suffering for over 20 years. I actually feel human again."
"My husband and I no longer live our lives completely dictated by migraine. We do things together and make plans. My family no longer have to see me in the depths of depression and with no hope that life will ever get better again."

When will this new drug be available on the NHS?

Clinical Commissioning Groups in England now have three months to comply with this recommendation. The NHS in Wales has two months to comply.

In January of this year, the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) approved the use of Ajovy in the NHS in Scotland for both chronic and episodic patients who have failed three or more migraine preventives. Last year, the SMC also approved another CGRP drug, Aimovig, for chronic migraine patients who had failed three or more preventives.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland should be reviewing this NICE decision shortly in order to check for legal, policy, and financial consequences related to its implementation in Northern Ireland and prior to any endorsement. This review is not a reassessment of the clinical and cost evidence used by NICE in forming its advice. As soon as the review is completed, endorsement decisions will be published on the Department’s website.

Patients who think they may be eligible and would benefit from this drug should speak to their NHS clinician about accessing it.