Patients with “blinding” headaches could be treated with weight loss jab used for type 2 diabetes, trial finds

Patients with “blinding” headaches can be treated with weight-loss shots commonly used for type 2 diabetes, a new trial has found.

A team of neurologists from the University of Birmingham and Birmingham University Hospital has found that regular injections of the peptide in a group of patients lead to short- and long-term drops in brain pressure.

They concluded that a particular peptide called exenatide could be a potential therapy for patients with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), a rare and debilitating condition that increases pressure in the brain and It can cause people (usually women) to suffer from chronic headaches and even permanent loss of vision.

In the IIH Stress Trial, participants also experienced a significant reduction in headaches over the 12 weeks they participated, with an average reduction of 7.7 headache days per month compared with only 1.5 days in the placebo group.

The incidence of IIH, once thought to be rare, is now skyrocketing with rising rates of obesity worldwide. The disorder occurs in about 1 to 3 per 100,000 in the normal population, but becomes more common in obese people (BMI of at least 30), with rates as high as 20 per 100,000 reported People get sick.

There are currently no licensed drug options, and existing off-label medications are complicated by side effects. IIH is often associated with reduced quality of life for patients, mainly affecting women aged 25 to 36 years, and weight gain is a major risk factor for developing IIH and disease recurrence.

A key finding of the study was the rapid action of the drug, which showed a significant reduction in brain pressure within two and a half hours of taking the drug. This rapid onset of action is critical for a disease that can lead to rapid blindness if left untreated, the team said.

Study leader Alex Sinclair, professor of neurology at the University of Birmingham, described the findings as “an important step forward for IIH patients”.

He said: “We are pleased to see that the phase 2 trial resulted in a reduction in brain pressure in our treatment group immediately and after 12 weeks, and nearly 8 fewer headache days over the 12-week period, and all women were able to sustain it throughout treatment, with few adverse effects. We now hope to see a larger trial of exenatide to really reduce the stress for many people around the world with IIH.”

Results of phase 2 trial published in journal brain.

Shelly Williamson, chair of the patients charity IIH UK, said: “This is such an exciting development. New drug options are vital to the IIH and this trial offers hope to the millions of patients living with this disease. We are very much looking forward to the next steps and look forward to seeing the drug tested in two large Phase 3 clinical trials.”

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