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Nearly 20% of migraineurs use opioids for migraine



Nineteen percent of patients with migraine use opioids to treat migraine, according to a survey of more than 21,000 patients in 2018. People with 4 or more migraine headache days per month are more likely to use opioids, compared with people with fewer migraine headache days per month, researchers said. Opioid use for migraine “remains alarmingly high,” the investigators said at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society.

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Although opioid use for the treatment of migraine typically is discouraged, studies indicate that it is common. Evidence suggests that opioids may increase the risk of progression from episodic to chronic migraine.

To evaluate opioid use in people with migraine, Sait Ashina, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and the research colleagues analyzed data from 21,143 people with migraine who participated in the OVERCOME (Observational Survey of the Epidemiology, Treatment and Care of Migraine), a Web-based study of a representative U.S. sample. OVERCOME enrolled participants in the fall of 2018.

The researchers classified self-reported opioid use for migraine as current use in the past 12 months, former use, or never. Participants had a mean age of 42 years, and 74% were female. The researchers used a multivariable logistic regression model adjusted for age and sex in their analyses.

“Strikingly, we were able to find 19% of people with migraine were reporting current use of opioids,” Dr. Ashina said.

Among 12,299 patients with 0-3 migraine headache days per month, 59% were never, 26% former, and 15% current users of opioids for migraine. Among 8,844 patients with 4 or more migraine headache days per month, 44.9% were never, 31.2% former, and 23.9% current users of opioids for migraine.

There was an increased likelihood of opioid use for migraine in people with pain comorbidities such as back pain, neck pain, and fibromyalgia and in people with anxiety and depression.

Approximately 30%-40% of those who used opioids for migraine were using strong opioids, as defined by the World Health Organization, Dr. Ashina noted. Preliminary analyses indicate that patients tended to receive opioids in a primary care setting, he said.

Eli Lilly funded the OVERCOME study. Dr. Ashina has consulted for Novartis, Amgen, Promius, Supernus, Satsuma, and Allergan. He is on the Editorial Advisory Board for Neurology Reviews.

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