If you end up in the emergency room here in North America, and you’re diagnosed with migraine, there’s a very good chance you’ll end up with an injection. That injection is usually something called Demerol, or meperidine hydrochloride. But is that the best way to go?
Of course, Demerol for migraine is nothing new. Basically, it’s prescribed for the pain (usually headache pain). Meperidine is a powerful, fast-acting opiod (narcotic) drug.
Though Demerol may help with the pain, there are problems. It doesn’t tend to last as long as some drugs, there are issues with toxicity, and concerns about dependence. Is Demerol really the best drug to take in an emergency situation?
Though it’s being used less and less in many countries around the world, it’s still prescribed for migraine in the emergency room. A study over the summer set out to find out what other options might be better.
This was a meta-study – a review of information on the use of drugs for migraine in emergency (11 clinical trials were studied in all). The study found that many of the alternative drugs already used were more effective (or similarly effective) than Demerol at killing the headache pain itself (for example, a DHE (dihydroergotamine mesylate or Migranal) injection). (overview here)
Surely there are many options for dealing with advanced migraine symptoms, far beyond DHE and Meperidine. I hope more studies are done to find the best, fastest treatment for someone who so urgently needs it.
There may not be much we can do in the meantime. However, if you have ended up in emergency before, it would be a good idea to take a note of what worked for you (I remember being in emergency and going through a lot before finding real help!). You could make the information part of an emergency card or medicine log that you carry around and can pull out at the hospital (after all, you don’t want to try to explain it in the middle of an attack!). Remember, what worked well for someone else may not work well for you – these studies are simply looking for what is generally most effective.