Finding an effective and reliable treatment for migraines can be challenging for many individuals, and there is a lack of information comparing the effectiveness of various medications. A recent study, utilizing data from nearly 300,000 individuals through a smartphone app, aims to assist people in making informed decisions about their migraine medications. Published in the November 29, 2023, online edition of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, the research suggests that certain migraine medications, including triptans, ergots, and anti-emetics, may be two to five times more effective than ibuprofen in treating migraine attacks.

Migraine attacks are characterized by intense throbbing head pain, sensitivity to light and sound, as well as nausea or vomiting, potentially impacting a person’s quality of life and productivity. The study, conducted by Dr. Chia-Chun Chiang of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and an American Academy of Neurology member, highlights the importance of considering triptans earlier in the treatment of migraines, rather than reserving them for severe attacks.

The research analyzed over 3 million self-reported migraine attacks from nearly 300,000 app users over a six-year period. Users tracked the frequency of attacks, triggers, symptoms, and medication effectiveness. With 4.7 million recorded treatment attempts, researchers compared the effectiveness of 25 medications across seven drug classes to ibuprofen.

The study identified triptans, ergots, and anti-emetics as the top three classes of medications more effective than ibuprofen. Triptans were found to be five times more effective, ergots three times more effective, and anti-emetics two and a half times more effective. Examining individual medications, eletriptan, zolmitriptan, and sumatriptan were among the most effective.

While NSAIDs other than ibuprofen were 94% more effective, acetaminophen was 17% less effective than ibuprofen in treating migraines. Notably, the combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine was found to be 69% more effective than ibuprofen.

The study emphasizes the variety of effective alternatives for migraine treatment and encourages individuals to discuss these options with their healthcare providers. Limitations of the study include the potential influence of user expectations and the exclusion of newer migraine medications, gepants and ditans, due to limited data and availability during the study. The research received support from the Kanagawa University of Human Services.

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