In primary headaches, there is a clear association between the headache and the release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) but not with any of the other neuronal messengers. The purpose of this review is to describe the role of CGRP in the intracranial circulation and to elucidate a possible role for a specific CGRP receptor antagonist in the treatment of primary headaches. Acute treatment with a 5-HT(1B/1D) agonist (triptan) results in alleviation of the headache and normalization of the cranial venous CGRP levels, in part due to a presynaptic inhibitory effect on sensory nerves. The central role of CGRP in migraine and cluster headache pathophysiology has led to the search for small molecule CGRP antagonists with few cardiovascular side-effects. The initial pharmacological profile of such a group of compounds has recently been disclosed. One of these compounds has been found to be efficacious in the relief of acute attacks of migraine.
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