Everybody is talking about medication overuse headache (MOH). There is a big push to cut down on drugs and to find alternatives. But is it possible that we’re over-emphasizing the problem?
At last month’s meeting of the American Headache Society in San Diego, organizers set up a discussion on the topic – is MOH actually a thing?
Ok, the thesis was “Medication Overuse Headache is a Proven Entity” – true, or false?
Taking opposite sides were Dr. Richard Lipton (“true”) and Dr. Ann Scher (“false”) (two experts who have actually worked together on a number of projects in the past).
The discussion is, of course, a lot more nuanced than that. Just what is MOH? What medications can cause MOH? How much of a certain drug is too much? Are there permanent consequences to MOH? Or is it easily resolved?
Dr. Scher brought up an important point. Common current advice is to limit abortive medication to 2x per week or less. Medications that should especially be avoided include opioids and butalbital combination medications. So the question is – How many are being harmed vs helped by this advice?
That is the bottom line, right? Whatever the details may be, is the current focus, the current common advice, actually helping patients?
For example, is it better to take a little too much (no, we’re not talking about multiple doses per day here), or to completely quit the medication?
Few would disagree that MOH exists in some form, but there is not equal evidence for every medication.
Dr. Alexander Mauskop, who kindly reported on this discussion for us (see The existence of medication overuse headache is debated), actually advocates the use of daily triptans for a few patients. Other doctors would be horrified by the thought.
The heart of the discussion really isn’t whether or not medication overuse headache actually exists. The question is – where is it really a problem, and how can it be treated? And the truth is, we have a long way to go before we’ll have good answers to these questions. It’s good to see the discussion moving forward.