Which would you prefer – taking a pill for headache pain, or rubbing something on your skin? It might be faster to swallow something, but why send something all the way to your stomach when the pain is in your head?
Of course, that’s a drastic over-simplification, but it does make a point. Often times, pills that are swallowed are not as “targeted” as we would like. Would it work better to apply something right where the pain is – on the head?
Achelios Therapeutics is working on that very thing with TOPOFEN, a gel that can be applied to the skin.
TOPOFEN is actually a formulation of ketoprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-infammatory drug (NSAID) which is sometimes used for hormonal related headache, as well as menstrual pain in general. It’s also used for other headaches, and pain from osteoarthritis.
At the 67th Annual Meeting for the American Academy of Neurology, a report was given on the latest trial of TOPOFEN for use in migraine treatment. 42 adults with migraine with aura and migraine without aura were given the gel. Each person was asked to take a pea-sized amount and rub it on the skin over the peripheral trigeminal nerve ends – that is, six points on the face, both sides (even if they headache pain was only on one side). 49 severe attacks were treated, 22 with TOPOFEN and 27 with a placebo.
77% of patients had some relief using TOPOFEN. After 4 hours, 23% were completely pain-free, and after 24 hours 50% were pain-free (double the success of those using the placebo).
At first these results may not seem too amazing. But remember, this is not a special migraine drug, this is a NSAID (ibuprofen or Advil is a NSAID as well, though a different type). Taking that into consideration, these are actually pretty good results. No pill was taken; all we’re talking about is a little gel rubbed on the skin.
Not only was their pain relief, patients also found relief from other symptoms, such as nausea and photophobia.
After 24 hours, the medication was still in the tissue – it was still working after 24 hours.
So what are the upsides and downsides to this kind of treatment?
The gel did cause temporary skin irritation in some people, usually moderate or mild. It could be there a small percentage of people would not be able to use this drug – but that’s common with any medication or treatment.
But a major downside of NSAIDs is avoided here – stomach problems. Applying the gel near where the actual pain is could be a much more direct way to calm migraine symptoms.
We still have a lot to learn about topical treatments for migraine, but so far TOPOFEN seems to be a great start – quickly absorbed and effective in the treatment of migraine pain and other symptoms.