Darlene LeBlanc, 61, is a migraine sufferer.
“A migraine is not ‘just a headache’ as many people who have never had a migraine seem to think,” said Darlene LeBlanc who lives in Spring Hill. Darlene has suffered from migraines since she was in her twenties. Her mother suffered too and now her two daughters, Shannon (27) and Lauren (32) are also experiencing the discomfort of migraines.
Throughout her life Darlene has experienced first-hand the debilitating impact of migraines and also feels the stigma associated with the disease — people who don’t experience migraines don’t understand how bad it really is. And along with nearly 40 million other Americans with migraines, Darlene can relate poignant stories of missed special family occasions and workdays. Understanding this loss is the reason Darlene feels passionate about telling her story — so others can learn from it, and get back to doing what they love.
Darlene describes her migraines as an ice pick on one side of her face or eye. Her husband Kevin can recognize when a migraine attack is looming because the eye and nose on one side of her face start watering. As the migraine progresses, she experiences extreme sensitivity to light and sound. “This is when I can’t bear to be in any type of light or a room with any sound,” she explained. I lock myself away in my room and shut everyone out.”
Darlene experiences about three to five migraine attacks a month and each one lasts approximately three full days. While she has been able to identify several triggers, Darlene finds her migraines are very unpredictable. She explained all sorts of things can be triggering. Chocolate, cutting up an onion, too much or too little caffeine, and even a change in the weather. “That’s when I can tell by my eye and nose watering and a pain up the back of my neck,” she said. “Sometimes dehydration can trigger a migraine so I try to keep hydrated constantly.”
After Darlene senses an attack has been triggered, she has from one to four hours to take control and offset a full-blown migraine. “I tried yoga and deep breathing for a while and found that could calm me down but could only stem the migraine short-term,” she said. Over the years, she has tried several prescription medications but struggled with both the side effects and effectiveness of the treatments. She has also tried many different holistic and over the counter treatments.
But it was while volunteering at a nearby research facility that Darlene learned of a clinical trial about migraines that was looking for participants. She immediately signed up, ever-optimistic to find something to stop her migraine attacks.
Darlene was a participant in the study for a year conducted by Meridien Research. With offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Maitland/Orlando, and Lakeland, Meridien provides patients and families in Central Florida an opportunity to take part in clinical research trials on a wide variety of medical conditions. Their trial was to review a product from Biohaven Pharmaceuticals called Nurtec™ ODT (generic name rimegepant), a newly developed treatment for migraine.
Biohaven Pharmaceuticals is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with proven leadership targeting neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases, including rare disorders. According to Biohaven, a single dose of Nurtec can provide fast pain relief and return patients to normal function within one hour, and deliver sustained efficacy that lasts up to 48 hours for many patients.
“I had to log in every 15 mins during a migraine and detail how it was affecting me,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to work but it did.” Instructed to take the treatment at the onset of a migraine, Darlene explained it was a fast-dissolving lozenge that disperses almost instantly in your mouth under the tongue without the need for water. “I was amazed that within an hour my migraine was gone and didn’t come back,” said Darlene. “I also didn’t have any annoying side effects that other migraine drugs are sometimes known to cause.” Darlene added that Nurtec worked consistently for her all during the study and was quite disappointed when the study ended.
“It’s such a convenient, discreet way for people with migraines to take their medication when and where they need it, she said. “I wanted to make sure I could keep getting this relief for my migraine.”
When Biohaven successfully received FDA approval for Nurtec this past winter, Darlene met with a doctor through Cove Networks, a full-service healthcare company that offers personalized treatment solutions for migraine sufferers. She now receives a regular prescription for Nurtec through her Cove doctor. “I waited such a long time to find a migraine medication to work for me,” she said. I am very grateful to have taken part in the study for Nurtec and I want to encourage other people with migraine not to give up hope and to continue to work with their doctor to find something that will work for them.”
Although Darlene is retired, she still works with several clients as an insurance broker. Her two daughters also live with migraines and they plan to try Nurtec for the acute treatment of their migraines.
It should be noted that NurtecTM ODT is not for the preventive treatment of migraine but for fast pain relief of migraine in adults.
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