Miracle Medication helps 3 in 10 Migraine Sufferers!

Yes, there is an amazing medication that helps – 3 in 10 migraineurs!  Ok, that doesn’t sound like much.  Actually, it isn’t.

It is great for those 3, of course!  But for the rest, no so great.

Miracle Drugs?

So what is this medication?  Actually, it’s not just one medication – it’s most of the common ones you’ve heard of.  No, I’m not saying that all medications only help 3 in 10, but that a single medication will probably only help 3 in 10.

This is based on research done at the Minnesota Evidence-based Practice Center.  Researchers wanted to pool results from 5,244 clinical trials of migraine medications.

They examined 59 drugs in 14 different drug classes.  This would include medications like:

  • Topamax
  • Depakote
  • Inderol
  • Toprol-xl

…and many more.

The researchers concluded that, generally speaking, individual drugs helped – at least, better than a placebo – about 200-400 people out of 1000.

Of course, whether they helped or not, many medications aren’t continued because of side effects.  Some of the worst offenders include topiramate (Topamax), other antiepileptics used off label, and antidepressants.

Some drugs did much better when it came to side effects vs. benefit.  These included angiotensin inhibitors (such as lisinopril (ie Zestril)) and beta-blockers (such as metoprolol or propranolol).

Other than the lack of a miracle drug, there were a couple of other things that did not impress the researchers.  One was that many trials were of poor quality.  Another was that there is a lack in research into the long term effects of these drugs, particularly when it comes to quality of life.

Again, this report is not suggesting that only 3 in 10 migraineurs can be helped with medication.  Considering all the various drugs and treatments and combinations, that number is much higher.  There is good treatment available!

But once again we’re reminded that migraine is very individual – what helps one person won’t help another.

We’re also reminded that much of the excellent migraine-fighting medication available today is still very new.  We don’t have good studies, and we don’t know what the risks are when it comes to taking these meds long term.

A neurologist reflects on these findings:  Effective Migraine Prevention per 215 Trials
Also see:  Is your migraine preventive treatment balanced between drugs’ benefits and harms?

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8 comments… add one
  • Lauren Puglisi Jun 17, 2013

    Don’t even get me started about Topomax…it earned the name “The Stupid Pill”.

  • Joann Jun 17, 2013

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Quality of life. I went on those meds, the exact ones, in the exact mix. I could not speak, think or function. They cost me my family and my way of life. And they did not help my migraines. I will suffer with daily migraines, with no pain meds, with the loss of many days. The meds have to improve, not just throw something at them that does not work for even a third of sufferers, I appreciate your advocating for all of us and putting the facts our there, I only wish that everyone understood the disease and the money was there to investigate new options, The drug companies are making money on these drugs that don’t work, help us with options that do.

  • Patricia McMurtrie Jun 18, 2013

    James, Did the study only include Rx formulations, or did it also include clinical studies that were done with homeopathic migraine pain relievers as well?

    • James Jun 21, 2013

      I believe this study focused on medications, not on supplements, herbal treatments, etc.

  • chris Jun 19, 2013

    “The drug companies are making money on these drugs that don’t work, help us with options that do.” absolutely correct and you hear doctors talking about ‘medication over use’ and placing the blame back on the patient, well you can’t get sumatriptan in the UK over the counter, you have to have a doctors prescription and it’s the first thing they prescribe when you tell them you can’t work. They don’t tell you that further on up the road it ‘can’ make your condition worse, and when you do get worse they offer another triptan – it’s a scandal. But I can say to you that the muscles in the face and neck are far more involved than doctors tell you, the evidence is in the efficacy of botox of-course it’s more than just that, but with awareness it’s something people can control mostly without any drugs and just a sleeping device for bruxism.

  • Russ Evans May 8, 2016

    I’ve been on Topamax for several years now. It had the single largest, positive effect on my migraine/cluster headaches of anything I’ve ever tried. I did have the “stupids” for quite some time, but the word searching and memory issues have improved a lot. I’m also on two other daily preventive prescription medications. Let’s face it folks, what we have is no simple, easy brain disorder to fix, it’s different for all of us, and there is and likely never will be a “silver bullet.” I’m sorry for those of you who have lost family and friends; we’ve all lost time, missed important events in the lives of those we treasure, and cursed ourselves for not being strong enough to push through the pain and other symptoms to try to maintain just a “normal” life. I thank God for every day I’m “vertical” and can function without the effects of this disorder. A great, understanding doctor and properly prescribed medication allows me more good days than bad, and for that I am truly thankful.

  • Mary B Dec 21, 2016

    It seems this is an old blog. Hopefully new things come up. I have done Topimax twice. I got the “stupids” very bad the first time. I went off it because of it even though it did help. Over a year later I went back on it, and knew what I was getting into so I started writing down important things I said to my kids (yes my kids took advantage of this) and well, kept a diary of sorts of important things. That side effect got better over time. My headaches can really get me down so I have better days than worse days and my new doctor is adding to this med. I start it as soon as i pick it up from the pharmacy. But the topimax has kept me more or less out of bed most days all day. It’s not perfect, and I still need to rest some, or even nap on some days as I get headaches daily, and migraines at least several times a month, but I’m so thankful for it. I also have neck and lower back issues so I’m a hot mess. Being a single mom of 3 kids is not always easy being well, but being sick is even harder, and I’ll take all the help I can get, and if i have to take notes and be put out a bit, I’ll take what I can get.

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