Ubrogepant Safety, Efficacy Not Affected by Triptans

Frieda Wiley

April 15, 2021

Previous and concomitant triptan therapy bears no effect on ubrogepant efficacy and tolerability, according to a study published in Headache.

Dr Andrew Blumenfeld

"The goal is to get migraine attacks under control as quickly as you can with as few adverse events as possible," said lead author Andrew Blumenfeld, MD, director of the Headache Center of Southern California in Carlsbad, California. "Ubrogepant is very efficacious and well tolerated because it has few adverse events."

Migraine disorder is the third most prevalent disease, and at least one person living in 25% of all U.S. households has the condition.

Clinicians have a wide range of medications at their disposal to treat migraines. These drug classes include triptans, ditans, NSAIDs, dihydroergotamine, and combination analgesics. Although numerous pharmacologic options are available to manage this patient population, an estimated 95% of patients who take oral medications to alleviate their migraine symptoms still fail to achieve relief with at least one acute episode.

Triptans remain a common option and first-line choice for acute migraine relief, but poor tolerability, among other factors, continue to limit their effectiveness. Moreover, their vasoconstrictive properties preclude their use in specific patient populations, such as those who have hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, and cerebral vascular accident. These circumstances, combined with other unmet clinical needs in migraine, have prompted researchers to explore new options, including a newer class of drugs – CGRP receptor antagonists. An endogenous protein, CGRP, has inflammatory and pronociceptive properties that play an active role in contributing to migraine pathogenesis.

Efficacy Analyzed by Triptan Response

To investigate the effects of anti-CGRP treatment in patients with migraine who have a previous history of triptan use, researchers conducted two phase 3, randomized, double-blind, multicenter, single-attack trials, known as ACHIEVE I and ACHIEVE II.

Trial participants ranged in age from 18 to 75 years with a documented history of migraines with or without aura. In ACHIEVE I, investigators randomized 1,327 participants 1:1:1 to receive placebo, ubrogepant 50 mg, or ubrogepant 100 mg and placebo. Randomized patients in ACHIEVE II (n = 1,355) received placebo, ubrogepant 25 mg, or ubrogepant 50 mg to treat a single episode. During the screening process, researchers further placed patients in one of three groups based on their previous triptan use – triptan responder, triptan-insufficient responder, and triptan naive. Patients were further randomized based on their previous experience with triptans and whether they currently used them for migraine prevention. Patients participating in the study had up to 60 days to treat one qualifying migraine of moderate or severe nature at home.

The studies had two primary endpoints. The first was freedom from pain at the 2-hour mark following the initial dose, defined as decreased headache severity from moderate or severe at baseline to no pain. The other primary endpoint was the absence of most bothersome migraine-associated symptom (MBS) – photophobia, phonophobia, or nausea – 2 hours after the initial ubrogepant dose.

The pooled analysis collated data from 1,799 patients in both studies (placebo, n = 912; ubrogepant 50 mg, n = 887). Patients fell into the following categories: 682 triptan responders (placebo, n = 350; ubrogepant, n = 332); 451 triptan-insufficient responders (placebo, n = 223; ubrogepant, n = 228), and 666 triptan naive (placebo, n = 339; ubrogepant, n = 337).

Based on the data, approximately 25% of the patients enrolled in the study fell into the triptan-insufficient category. Of this subpopulation, about 80% of the patients in each treatment group experienced insufficient efficacy when using triptans. In each treatment group of insufficient responders, approximately 17% of patients cited tolerability issues, and 3% had contraindications that precluded them from triptan therapy.

The incidence of treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) and treatment-related TEAEs did not differ appreciably across historical triptan experience subgroups. The highest percentage of participants experiencing a treatment-related TEAE in the pooled ubrogepant 50-mg treatment group was found in the triptan-insufficient responders (10.4%), whereas the highest percentage in the placebo group was found in the triptan-naive subgroup (9.7%). No serious AEs (SAEs) were reported in any subgroup.

The researchers concluded that "ubrogepant efficacy and tolerability did not differ for the acute treatment of migraine in participants classified as triptan responders, triptan-insufficient responders, and triptan naive based on their historical experience with triptans."

Payers Limit Use

Despite the promising data, payer hurdles limit ubrogepant's use, said Stewart Tepper, MD, who was asked to comment on the study. Tepper, a professor of neurology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, N.H., was not involved in the study. "The study shows that ubrogepant will work as well as those who have not responded well to triptans, which is key," Tepper said. "However, payers have set up step edits in which patients aren't allowed to get ubrogepant unless they fail therapy with at least two triptans."

Blumenfeld discounts the rationale behind requiring patients to try a second triptan after failing initial triptan therapy. "There are plenty of studies showing that if you fail one triptan, you're likely to fail another," he said. "Why would you put the patient on a different triptan when you could switch them to another drug with a different mechanism of action?"

The results showed that more patients in the ubrogepant 50-mg arm achieved pain freedom than those in the placebo arm within 2 hours after the initial dose in each group.

"Migraine is a very disabling condition, so you want to get the attack under control as quickly as possible while limiting the risk for potential side effects," said Blumenfeld. "Ubrogepant is very efficacious and with very few adverse effects, but its use is limited because insurance companies require the failure of several triptans."

One limitation of the study is that it is a subanalysis.

Blumenfeld has disclosed advisory board service, consulting, speaking, and authorship for AbbVie, Alder, Amgen, Biohaven, Lilly, Novartis, Teva, Theranica, and Zoscano.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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