Lilly enlists patients to raise cluster headache awareness after Emgality scores second nod

Emgality pen
Eli Lilly's looks to address a whole new group of patients with its second indication for Emgality to treat cluster headache. (Eli Lilly)

Cluster headache pain is so intense, one patient describes banging his head against the refrigerator door to make it stop. And he's just one of several patients describing the agitating pain of episodic cluster headaches in Eli Lilly’s new educational video to raise awareness around the condition.

Lilly migraine drug Emgality picked up the first FDA nod for cluster headache treatment a few weeks ago, in a win that Lilly execs told FiercePharma is more than just a second indication for Emgality. Some 250,000 people suffer from episodic cluster headache, which is a very different pain than migraine.

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Other patients in the videos agree: One woman describes the feeling like someone ripping your eye out or stabbing it over and over again with an ice pick. Another sufferer details his 10-year struggle to be diagnosed even after frequent trips to the ER and multiple visits with neurologists.

The patients in the video are members of ClusterBusters, a non-profit dedicated to finding treatments for cluster and related headaches. Its founder, cluster headache sufferer Bob Wold, appears in the video, as does the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines, Christi Shaw, who says cluster headache is a “pressing need that deserves to be addressed through ongoing scientific research.”

“We are working hand-in-hand with patient advocacy groups like ClusterBusters to reach patients who for so long didn’t have many places to turn to,” a Lilly spokeswoman said via email. “Just as recently as this past week, Lilly held a webcast with a number of patient advocacy organizations in the U.S. to raise awareness of this devastating neurologic disorder in order to educate patients on new treatment options given the recent FDA approval of Emgality.”

The FDA first approved Emgality in September 2018 for the preventive treatment of migraine in adults, but it was the third member of the next-gen CGRP migraine class to market, coming in behind Amgen and Novartis' Aimovig and Teva's Ajovy. While it’s still behind in sales, becoming the first to get the cluster indication may help close that gap; Teva, meanwhile in April said it had already abandoned plans to seek a cluster headache approval.

RELATED: Lilly asks migraine patients to use their imaginations in first DTC push for Emgality

While the Lilly spokesperson did not comment about whether the new indication will get a broader consumer marketing campaign, Lilly already promotes Emgality’s migraine indication in a mainstream campaign. The TV ad, featuring a mother and daughter playing pirates and other pretend games, has been in heavy media rotation since it launched in February, with more than $62 million spent so far, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker.