A medicine specifically developed to help prevent migraine attacks will soon be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Thousands of Australians battling frequent and debilitating migraine attacks that disrupt their daily lives may be able to access EMGALITY® (galcanezumab), a prevention therapy that blocks a protein in the brain which increases during migraine attacks, under the PBS.
The Federal Government has announced that EMGALITY will be subsidised for Australians afflicted by chronic migraine (defined as 15 or more headache days a month, eight of which are migraines) who have not had adequate relief from at least three other prevention therapies.
Associate Professor Richard Stark, Neurologist at the Alfred Hospital, said, "This is fantastic news for the thousands of Australians at the severe end of the migraine spectrum who endure relentless pain, and a range of other symptoms, on at least half the days in every month".
"Existing prevention therapies are significantly under-used in Australia, for a range of reasons, which is why new forms of prevention are so important," Associate Professor Stark said.
Monthly injections of EMGALITY currently cost approximately $3,000 per year through an ongoing company subsidised access program. The PBS listing will mean that eligible patients will pay just $41.30 (general patients) or $6.60 (concession card holders) per monthly dose. It is estimated that around 40,000 Australians with chronic migraine will be eligible for EMGALITY on the PBS.
Associate Professor Stark said it is critically important to understand that migraine is an unpredictable neurological disorder that is distinctly different to a headache.
Characterised by moderate to severe throbbing or pulsating pain, migraine attacks often last up to 72 hours and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, loss of vision, numbness, as well as sensitivity to light, sound, and/or smells.6 The condition is significantly more common in women than men.
"Chronic migraine can be insufferable, with recurrent attacks giving patients little respite or capacity to engage in regular activity," Associate Professor Stark said.
"Affordable access to prevention therapy has the potential to release thousands of people from this burden," he said.
Dr Ron Granot, Neurologist from Sydney's East Neurology, explained that, "Migraine is often misunderstood or trivialised as just a bad headache, but it can shut down the body for days, with people often forced to retreat to a dark, quiet room until the pain, nausea and light sensitivity subside."
"Chronic migraine is severely disabling, turns an individual's world upside-down, and can negatively impact every facet of their life – from caring for their children or maintaining personal relationships, to holding down a job or completing their studies," he said.
"This long-awaited PBS listing puts a specialised migraine prevention therapy within financial reach for the first time for those most severely affected by the condition," said Dr Granot.
Eli Lilly ANZ General Manager Benjamin Basil acknowledged the challenges in securing a PBS listing for EMGALITY and commended the Federal Government for "partnering to overcome these issues and deliver for thousands of Australians burdened by chronic migraine."
"This is a tremendous milestone that will be welcomed across Australia," he said.
"Our company has remained committed to securing a PBS subsidy for this medicine and to supporting neurologists and patients in their efforts to reduce the impact of chronic migraine. It was the voice of these individuals and advocates that spurred us on to find a solution and secure this important PBS listing," Mr Basil concluded.
Picture by unsplash