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This Nasal Spray Offers Migraine Relief in Just 15 Minutes

March 20, 2023

The wait for migraine relief may be down to just minutes with a new nasal spray approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Pfizer’s Zavzpret was approved this month for acute treatment of migraine in adults and is expected to be available in July.

“We’ve been waiting for this! It will be so helpful for people who have trouble taking pills because migraine causes them severe nausea, or those whose migraines ramp up quickly,” says Sandhya Mehla, MD, a headache specialist with the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute Headache Center in Norwich. “Other treatments can take up to two hours to help.”

So, how does the spray work and who will benefit from the new innovative treatment? Dr. Mehla explains.

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Who will benefit from the nasal spray?

Around 80 percent of migraine-sufferers experience nausea during an episode.

“People who get severe nausea with migraine tend to have trouble keeping pills down long enough for them to work. They throw it up,” she explains. “In addition, migraine causes many people to experience gastric slowing, which means the medications don’t absorb as well or as quickly as they should.”

Squirting Zavzpret into the nostrils, on the other hand, will help patients see relief much faster. Pfizer research indicates the wait should be about 15 minutes.

“Nasal mucosa absorbs medication much faster,” Dr. Mehla says.

> Related: Your Migraine Could Be a Sign of One of These 7 Serious Health Conditions

How does Zavzpret differ from existing treatments?

Zavzpret joins the newest class of migraine medications called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) inhibitors, which stop pain once it’s started. Currently, only pill and dissolving tablet forms of CGRP inhibitors are available, Dr. Mehla notes.

Zavzpret can also help people who cannot take other nasal spray treatments containing triptans, which correlates with a higher risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, she adds.

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What’s the science behind it?

Anti-CGRP agents like Zavzpret block CGRP molecules from binding to CGRP receptors in the body, a process that causes the trigeminal nerve pain and inflammation of migraine. The American Migraine Foundation called their introduction in 2021, “the biggest news in migraine treatment and prevention in decades.”

The molecules, Dr. Mehla says, play a role in all migraine patients to varying degrees.

“These newer agents were created to target this activity,” she says.