The new drug Trexima, a combination of Imitrex and Aleve (naproxen), “can provide faster, long-lasting relief of migraine pain than using either drug alone,” according to results of a study published in yesterday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In the study, Trexima relieved headaches within two hours in as many as 65% of participants, compared to 28% with the placebo. About 55% said Imitrex alone provided relief and as many as 44% said that naproxen did.
So it’s better than either drug alone, but is Trexima is more effective than taking Imitrex and naproxen at the same time? I’ve never seen this question answered. It’s a huge issue for patients because the Imitrex patent expires in 2009. Trexima
extends profits from Imitrex because selling it in Trexima sales will
cut into overall sales of Imitrex.
I get the arguments for using Trexima even if there’s no difference. Patients are more likely to take one medication than two. They also may have more faith in prescribed meds than over-the-counter drugs, which naproxen is. But would patients who can’t afford the brand-name drug be aware that they can get the same effect for much less money?
If Trexima is not more effective than taking Imitrex and naproxen in
separate pills, physicians assume responsibility for giving patients the
choice. At the very least, they should tell patients the different efficacy rates between the two. Some will for sure, but many others will follow the masses of drug rep cheerleaders.
GSK‘s foothold on the ethical side of
the line is tenuous. I don’t begrudge a company earning money, but
knowing the drug’s success rides on the pharmaceutical industry’s phenomenal marketing, patients will undoubtably lose.