hit counter

Anti-CGRP Monoclonal Antibodies to Prevent Chronic Migraine (2023 Review)

Migraine, a primary headache disorder, significantly impacts the quality of life of millions worldwide.

In recent years, the focus has shifted toward developing targeted therapies, particularly monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against the calcitonin-gene-related peptide (CGRP), to prevent chronic migraine attacks.

A relatively recent comprehensive network meta-analysis (NMA) evaluated the efficacy and safety of various anti-CGRP mAbs, providing insights into their role in the prophylactic management of chronic migraine.


  1. Monoclonal Antibodies as a New Horizon: mAbs targeting CGRP pathways represent a breakthrough in migraine prophylaxis, offering hope for those with unmet treatment needs.
  2. Comparative Efficacy and Safety: Galcanezumab, fremanezumab, and eptinezumab emerge as leading options in reducing migraine days and improving response rates, with eptinezumab showing the best safety profile.
  3. The Bayesian Approach: Utilizing a Bayesian framework for NMA provides a robust comparison of mAbs, integrating direct and indirect evidence to guide clinical decision-making.
  4. Future Directions: Despite promising results, further research is required to fully understand the long-term safety and efficacy of mAbs in migraine management.

Source: Clinical Psychopharmacology & Neuroscience (2023)

The Relationship Between CGRP & Migraines

The calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) has emerged as a pivotal player in the pathophysiology of migraines, underpinning the development of a new class of migraine treatments.

CGRP is a neuropeptide widely expressed throughout the body, with high concentrations in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Its role in migraine has been extensively studied, revealing a multifaceted involvement in the initiation, propagation, and intensity of migraine attacks.

CGRP & Migraine Pathophysiology

During a migraine attack, CGRP levels are elevated in the cranial circulation, suggesting its release from trigeminal nerve fibers.

This release is believed to occur in response to cortical spreading depression, inflammation, or other triggers associated with migraine onset.

Once released, CGRP can bind to its receptors located on vascular smooth muscle cells and neurons, initiating a cascade of events that contribute to migraine pathology:

  • Vasodilation: CGRP is a potent vasodilator. Its release in the meningeal vasculature leads to dilation of blood vessels, contributing to the development of migraine pain. This vasodilation is thought to facilitate a neurogenic inflammation, further sensitizing trigeminal nerve endings.
  • Neurogenic Inflammation: CGRP contributes to the induction of neurogenic inflammation by promoting the release of pro-inflammatory mediators. This inflammation further sensitizes the trigeminal nerve fibers, lowering the threshold for migraine pain.
  • Central Sensitization: Beyond its peripheral effects, CGRP is implicated in central sensitization within the central nervous system. It enhances the responsiveness of neurons in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis, a key brainstem region involved in migraine pain processing. This central sensitization manifests as increased sensitivity to light, sound, and pain, often experienced during migraines.

CGRP as a Therapeutic Target

The clear association between CGRP and migraine mechanisms has positioned it as an attractive target for migraine prevention.

Anti-CGRP therapies, including monoclonal antibodies and receptor antagonists, are designed to inhibit the action of CGRP either by directly neutralizing the peptide or by blocking its receptor.

These therapies can prevent the chain of events triggered by CGRP release, offering a preventive strategy that directly targets a molecular mechanism implicated in migraine pathogenesis.

Major Findings: Anti-CGRP mAbs for Migraine Prevention (2023 Review)

Haridas et al. conducted a network meta-analysis (NMA) to comprehensively evaluate the efficacy and safety of anti-CGRP monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in chronic migraine prophylaxis, focusing on three key aspects: reduction in mean migraine days, responder rates, and safety profiles.

1. Avg. Reduction in Migraine Days

Galcanezumab (120 mg): This mAb demonstrated the most significant reduction in mean migraine days among the treatments analyzed, with a mean difference (MD) of -2.7 days (95% credible interval [95%CrI]: -4.8 to -0.83). This indicates that, on average, patients treated with 120 mg of galcanezumab experienced nearly three fewer migraine days per month compared to those receiving other mAbs or placebo.

Eptinezumab (300 mg): Following galcanezumab in efficacy was eptinezumab 300 mg, with an MD of -2.6 days (95%CrI: -5.3 to -0.0034), suggesting a comparable reduction in mean migraine days, though with a wider credible interval indicating less precision in the estimate.

Fremanezumab (Monthly): Among the various dosing regimens of fremanezumab, the monthly administration showed a substantial efficacy (MD: -1.9 days; 95%CrI: -3.1 to -0.79), placing it as a strong contender in reducing migraine frequency.

2. Responder Rates

Fremanezumab (Quarterly): For the responder rate, defined as the proportion of patients achieving ≥ 50% reduction in monthly migraine days, the quarterly dose of fremanezumab showed the highest odds ratio (OR: 2.9; 95%CrI: 1.9 to 4.6). This result indicates that patients receiving fremanezumab quarterly were nearly three times more likely to experience a significant reduction in migraine frequency compared to those on placebo or other mAbs.

Fremanezumab (Monthly): Similar to its quarterly counterpart, the monthly dosing regimen also showed a high efficacy in terms of responder rate (OR: 2.9; 95%CrI: 1.9 to 4.3), underscoring the effectiveness of fremanezumab in achieving meaningful clinical improvement.

3. Safety Profiles

Eptinezumab: In terms of safety, eptinezumab emerged as the safest option among the studied mAbs, with the lowest odds of treatment-emergent adverse events (OR: 0.88; 95%CrI: 0.61−1.3) compared to placebo and other mAbs. This suggests that eptinezumab may offer a favorable balance between efficacy and safety for chronic migraine prophylaxis.

Comparative Safety: While specific safety metrics for other mAbs were not detailed as extensively as for eptinezumab, the analysis indicates varying safety profiles among the different treatments, with eptinezumab standing out for its lower rate of adverse events.

Anti-CGRP Monoclonal Antibodies for Migraine Prevention (2023 Review)

By synthesizing data from multiple clinical trials, the study aimed to provide a comprehensive ranking of these mAbs to guide clinical decision-making and identify the most effective and safest options for patients suffering from this debilitating condition.


  • The study protocol adhered to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review Protocols (PRISMA-P) guidelines and was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO).
  • A comprehensive literature search was performed across databases including PubMed, MEDLINE, Cochrane Database, and the International Clinical Trial Registry Platform (ICTRP), targeting randomized controlled trials that compared anti-CGRP mAbs against each other, standard medication, or placebo in adult patients with chronic migraine.
  • The Bayesian framework for NMA was employed to integrate direct and indirect evidence across studies, with outcomes expressed in terms of mean difference (MD) or odds ratio (OR) alongside 95% credible intervals (95%CrI).
  • Network graphs were constructed, and node-split analysis was applied to assess inconsistency within the network.
  • The quality of included studies was evaluated using the Risk of Bias 2 (ROB2) tool.


  • Efficacy in Reducing Migraine Days: Galcanezumab (120 mg) demonstrated superior efficacy in reducing mean migraine days (MD: -2.7; 95%CrI: -4.8 to -0.83) compared to other mAbs.
  • Responder Rate: Fremanezumab, with quarterly dosing, showed the highest responder rate (OR: 2.9; 95%CrI: 1.9 to 4.6), indicating a significant proportion of patients experienced at least a 50% reduction in monthly migraine days.
  • Safety Profile: Eptinezumab exhibited the safest profile among the mAbs analyzed, with the lowest rate of adverse events (OR: 0.88; 95%CrI: 0.61−1.3) compared to other treatments.


  • Lack of Long-term Data: The NMA primarily focused on short-term outcomes, leaving the long-term safety and efficacy of these mAbs largely unexplored.
  • Direct Comparisons: The majority of the evidence was derived from comparisons with placebo rather than head-to-head trials between mAbs, which may limit the direct applicability of the findings to clinical practice.
  • Publication Bias: The potential for publication bias exists, as studies with positive results are more likely to be published, which could skew the overall analysis.
  • Generalizability: The study populations in the included trials may not fully represent the broader demographic of chronic migraine patients, potentially affecting the generalizability of the results.

This network meta-analysis provides valuable insights into the relative efficacy and safety of anti-CGRP mAbs for the prophylaxis of chronic migraine, highlighting galcanezumab, fremanezumab, and eptinezumab as key options.

However, further research, particularly direct comparative trials and studies assessing long-term outcomes, are needed to fully understand the potential of these treatments in the broader context of migraine management.

Current Prevention Strategies for Chronic Migraine

Chronic migraines, characterized by headaches occurring on 15 or more days per month, significantly impact patients’ quality of life.

The management and prevention of chronic migraines have long been challenging, necessitating a multifaceted approach that includes lifestyle modifications, pharmacological treatments, and, in some cases, interventional procedures.

Traditional preventive treatments for migraines include a range of medications originally developed for other conditions:

  • Beta-blockers (e.g., propranolol and metoprolol), primarily used for hypertension and cardiovascular disorders, have been effective in reducing migraine frequency.
  • Anticonvulsants (e.g., topiramate and valproate), used for seizure disorders, also show efficacy in migraine prophylaxis.
  • Antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline), while aimed at treating depression, can reduce migraine occurrences.
  • Calcium channel blockers (e.g., verapamil) have been used with some success in migraine prevention, though their effectiveness is less well-documented compared to beta-blockers and anticonvulsants.

These options, while beneficial, come with various side effects and are not specifically targeted toward migraine pathophysiology, limiting their efficacy and tolerability for some patients.

The advent of anti-CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide) monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) has introduced a promising new dimension to the prophylactic treatment landscape of chronic migraines, potentially overcoming some limitations of existing therapies.

The Promise of Anti-CGRP Monoclonal Antibodies in Migraine Prevention

Anti-CGRP mAbs represent a novel class of migraine prophylactic agents developed to target the underlying pathophysiological processes of migraines directly.

CGRP is a neuropeptide extensively involved in the pathogenesis of migraines, contributing to vasodilation, inflammation, and transmission of pain signals in the brain.

By specifically targeting CGRP or its receptor, anti-CGRP mAbs can effectively prevent the onset of migraine attacks without the systemic side effects associated with conventional treatments.

Specific Mechanisms of Action

Anti-CGRP mAbs work by either binding to the CGRP molecule itself, preventing it from interacting with its receptor, or by targeting the CGRP receptor, thereby inhibiting the CGRP signaling pathway.

This targeted approach helps to diminish the cascade of events leading to migraine attacks, including vasodilation and sensory nerve activation, which are crucial in the development of migraine pain.

Duration of Effect

One of the significant advantages of anti-CGRP mAbs is their long duration of action.

These antibodies have a long half-life, allowing for infrequent dosing schedules.

Most anti-CGRP mAbs require administration only once a month or even quarterly, offering a convenient option for patients and improving adherence compared to daily oral medications.

Possible Advantages with Anti-CGRPs

  • Targeted Mechanism: Unlike broad-spectrum medications, anti-CGRP mAbs specifically target migraine pathophysiology, potentially offering more effective prevention with fewer off-target effects.
  • Improved Tolerability: Due to their specificity, anti-CGRP mAbs generally exhibit a favorable safety profile, with fewer and less severe side effects compared to traditional prophylactic medications.
  • Convenience: The longer duration of action and less frequent dosing improve patient compliance and quality of life.
  • Efficacy in Refractory Cases: Preliminary evidence suggests that anti-CGRP mAbs may be effective in patients who have not responded to other prophylactic treatments, filling a significant gap in migraine management.

Despite the promising advantages of anti-CGRP mAbs, their introduction into clinical practice is relatively recent, and their long-term safety and efficacy profile is still being established.

Additionally, the cost of these treatments may be higher compared to traditional options, potentially affecting accessibility for some patients.

Other Investigational Interventions to Prevent Chronic Migraine

Beyond anti-CGRP monoclonal antibodies, the field of migraine research is exploring various innovative interventions for both the prevention and treatment of migraines.

  • Small Molecule CGRP Receptor Antagonists: Also known as “gepants,” these orally administered drugs block the CGRP receptor, offering an alternative to mAbs for acute migraine treatment and prevention with the convenience of oral dosing.
  • Neuromodulation Devices: Non-invasive devices that use electrical or magnetic stimulation to target specific nerves or brain regions involved in migraine are gaining attention. These devices offer a drug-free approach to migraine management, appealing to patients who prefer to avoid medication or have contraindications.
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Peptide (PACAP) Targeted Therapies: PACAP is another neuropeptide implicated in migraine pathogenesis. Research is underway to develop therapies targeting PACAP or its receptors, aiming to expand the arsenal against migraine.
  • Gene Therapy: Although in early stages, gene therapy presents a long-term solution by potentially modifying the genetic factors contributing to migraine susceptibility.
  • Lifestyle and Behavioral Interventions: Increasing evidence supports the role of lifestyle changes, stress management, and behavioral therapies in migraine prevention, emphasizing a holistic approach to management.

Conclusion: Anti-CGRP Monoclonal Antibodies for Migraine Prophylaxis

The network meta-analysis (NMA) offers insightful comparisons on the efficacy and safety of anti-CGRP monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in the prevention of chronic migraines, highlighting a significant advancement in migraine management.

Galcanezumab, fremanezumab, and eptinezumab stand out for their respective strengths in reducing mean migraine days, enhancing responder rates, and ensuring safety profiles.

This study underscores the potential of these targeted therapies to fulfill unmet needs in chronic migraine prophylaxis, offering hope for patients seeking relief from this debilitating condition.

The findings advocate for personalized treatment approaches, considering individual patient profiles and preferences to optimize outcomes.

However, the necessity for further research, particularly direct comparative trials and long-term safety evaluations, is evident to fully ascertain the benefits and limitations of these novel agents.

The emergence of anti-CGRP mAbs represents a pivotal shift towards more specific, effective, and patient-friendly migraine prevention strategies.


Related Posts:

MHD News (100% Free)

* indicates required

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.