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Opioid use is common among migraineurs who take prescription medication



More than one-third of patients with migraine who take prescription medications use opioids, although guidelines recommend against it, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society. Opioid use among migraineurs is associated with indicators of poor health, such as high body mass index (BMI), high pain scores, and cardiovascular comorbidities. Some variables associated with opioid use are modifiable.

Mitchel L. Zoler/MDedge News

Dr. Richard B. Lipton

Medical associations do not recommend opioid use for migraine because it may increase the risks of dependence, suboptimal outcomes, and new-onset chronic migraine. Richard B. Lipton, MD, Edwin S. Lowe Chair in neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York, and colleagues analyzed data from the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) study to identify variables associated with opioid use among patients who treat their headaches with acute prescription medications.

Using a web panel that was demographically similar to the U.S. population, CaMEO identified people with migraine, based on the criteria of the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd Edition. Dr. Lipton and colleagues examined participants who reported currently using or having on hand acute prescription pain medication to treat headaches. The researchers compared the features (e.g., demographics, attack frequency, treatment choices, headache-related disability, and comorbidity) of self-reported opioid users with those of nonusers. They created nested, multivariable, binary logistic regression models to evaluate opioid use or nonuse as the outcome. Dr. Lipton and colleagues entered covariates in blocks (i.e., sociodemographics, headache and respondent characteristics, psychiatric comorbidities, emergency facility use for headache in the preceding 6 months, and one or more cardiovascular [CV] comorbidity) and removed nonsignificant sociodemographic variables from the model.

The researchers identified 2,388 respondents with migraine who currently used acute prescription medications for headache. Of this group, 867 (36.3%) used opioids. Compared with opioid nonusers, opioid users had significant increases in monthly headache days; frequency of emergency care use for headache within the past 6 months; medication overuse frequency; presence of allodynia, depression, anxiety, and CV comorbidity; Total Pain Index (TPI) scores; and diabetes diagnoses.

Factors significantly associated with opioid use included male sex (odds ratio [OR], 1.74); increasing body mass index BMI (OR, 1.02); allodynia (OR, 1.39); increasing monthly headache day frequency; increasing TPI scores excluding the head, face, and neck (1.32); anxiety (OR, 1.37); depression (OR, 1.50); one or more CV comorbidity (OR, 1.56); and emergency facility use for headache in the past 6 months (OR, 1.73). The OR of opioid use was 1.37 in patients with a monthly headache frequency of 10-14 days and 1.62 in patients with a frequency of 15 or more days, compared with patients with a monthly headache frequency of 0-4 days.

Receiving a diagnosis of migraine or chronic migraine was associated with a significantly lower likelihood of opioid use (OR, 0.38).

Allergan funded the CaMEO study and paid Dr. Lipton for consulting services.

SOURCE: Lipton R et al. AHS 2019. Abstract 629332.

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