Andrea, 36, works in a community health center in Missouri. She was part of a clinical trial studying Aimovig, the first drug designed to prevent migraine, which was approved by the FDA last week. The monthly injection is expected to be available soon and will cost $575 per month, though depending on insurance coverage, out-of-pocket expenses will vary.

By As told to Sarah Klein
May 24, 2018

I don’t remember ever not having headaches. In grade school, I always had ibuprofen in my purse. I don’t specifically remember when I had my first migraine, but my headaches got a lot worse through college and when I started working full time.

My migraines are just miserable. They make it hard to function. I do, because when you get them this often, you can’t just completely stop living. But I feel slow to respond—and the medicines I take that help them go away often leave me foggy and a little stupid feeling. The cure is just as “fun” as the actual headache sometimes.

I was having anywhere from 15 to 20 days a month with any type of headache, with two to three migraines a week. The throbbing pain is very distracting; you want to just lay around, and sometimes you can’t. I also get really sensitive to light and smells. Smells can trigger migraines, or if I already have a headache, it becomes just awful.

I had tried just about everything to treat my migraines: antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, Botox. I was on one medication meant for Alzheimer’s for a while.

Some of the different antidepressants had a lot of side effects. One of them made me want to eat everything in sight. My weight would go way up on some or way down on others. Some of them would zap my energy; others I would get neuropathy in my hands and feet. It was always a struggle to find the balance between side effects and reducing my headaches.

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The neurologist I’ve been seeing for years was a researcher in the Aimovig trial. We were struggling to come up with a new treatment option for me. I tried taking nothing for a while—that wasn't working either. But going off medication made me eligible for the trial, and I could stick with my same doctor and go through it, so I did.

It really was amazing. I had very minimal side effects; I think I only reported a spell of weird dreams. I was down to about one headache day a month. I asked my husband if I was exaggerating but he agreed: It was really life-changing. I could stop planning my life around my headaches. My husband and I bought bikes and we were playing tennis all the time, we were so active.

After the clinical trial ended and I had to stop taking Aimovig, my doctor and I kept looking for other ways to get me back in to a similar trial. I ended up having to wait until the drug would be approved and then become available, so we came up with a game plan to get me through. For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been doing Botox again. It’s hard to be active like we were. If I don’t have a headache, I’ll get one if I go outside. If I already have a headache, it’ll kick it into a migraine. I really feel limited now.

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I have so been looking forward to this [FDA approval]; I’ve had Google alerts on my phone to follow the news. I’ve already called my insurance to ask how soon they’ll approve it. If they cover it the way they cover most brands, like how they pay for my Botox, I’ll be paying less than I am now a month. A lot of my medications are expensive. And I should be eligible for rebates offered through the manufacturer’s website.

I’m just so excited that these new medications are coming out that are actually for migraines. I’ve tried anything and everything, so I’m excited to actually have something for this.