Open Access

Long term headache duration is a factor predicting nonresponse to detoxification and advice in medication overuse headache

  • Stefano Caproni1,
  • Elisa Bianchi2,
  • Letizia M Cupini3,
  • Ilenia Corbelli1,
  • Ettore Beghi2,
  • Paolo Calabresi1, 4,
  • Paola Sarchielli1Email author and
  • SAMOHA Study Group
The Journal of Headache and Pain201415:88

https://doi.org/10.1186/1129-2377-15-88

Received: 10 October 2014

Accepted: 6 December 2014

Published: 15 December 2014

Abstract

Background

Medication overuse headache (MOH) is a very heterogeneous disorder for which a recommended treatment is not yet available. The purpose of this study was to investigate any possible roles of demographic and clinical characteristics of MOH patients that might predict a response to detoxification and advice with or without preventive treatment.

Findings

This ancillary study is part of the Sodium vAlproate in the treatment of Medication Overuse HeadAche (SAMOHA) study that randomized 88 MOH patients for 3-month treatment period with sodium valproate (VPA) (800 mg/day) or placebo after a 6-day outpatient detoxification regimen. Demographic and clinical characteristics obtained on patients from both study arms were analyzed to point out an association with the response to the treatment. While for patients from VPA arm no significant results were obtained, comparing responders to non-responders to detoxification and advice to withdraw from MOH, a significant difference in headache duration was observed. Specifically, the efficacy of such treatment resulted ineffective in headache lasting longer than 30 years.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that the benefit from detoxification and advice can be excluded in MOH of long duration. Therefore, a preventive treatment is suggested particularly for these patients.

Keywords

MOH Detoxification Advice Headache duration Treatment

Background

Medication-overuse headache (MOH) is a secondary chronic headache having a relevant impact in clinical practice, with a prevalence of 1-2% in the general population [13]. MOH is a very heterogeneous disorder for which a recommended treatment is not yet available. The management of MOH currently represents a difficult challenge for clinicians and headache experts [4]. A possible treatment choice is detoxification and the initiation of a prophylactic therapy [5, 6]. Nevertheless, the timing of this prophylactic treatment after detoxification remains one of the most debated aspects of MOH care [7] and a matter of concern among patients [8]. In a recent randomized open-label trial, a structured inpatient detoxification program, characterized by the immediate start of a preventive treatment, resulted more effective than advice alone or a structured outpatient program to achieve drug withdrawal [9]. Likewise, the Sodium vAlproate in the treatment of Medication Overuse HeadAche (SAMOHA) study recently showed the efficacy and safety of sodium valproate (VPA), compared to placebo, after detoxification in the short-term treatment of MOH patients with a history of migraine without aura [10]. In light of this, we analyzed data obtained from patients in both arms of the SAMOHA study, in search of demographic and clinical characteristics which could predict a response to detoxification and advice to withdraw from drug abuse.

Methods

Standard protocol approvals, registrations, and patient consents

As an ancillary study, the protocol was submitted for approval to the Ethics Committees of each participating center. The SAMOHA trial was registered on the European Union Drug Regulating Authorities Clinical Trials website (EudraCT code 2007-006773-92; https://www.clinicaltrialsregister.eu/ctr-search/trial/2007-006773-92/IT). The SAMOHA study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and its amendments (Seoul, October 2008). All patients provided their written consent to participate in the study.

Subjects

This is an ancillary study related to the SAMOHA study, a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. After a 4-week baseline period (during which no study medication was given) 88 MOH patients received a 6-day outpatient detoxification regimen and then a 3-month treatment period using VPA (800 mg/day), followed by a 3-month follow-up (to verify the possibility of a carry-over effect of treatment). After the detoxification phase, patients were advised to discontinue the overused medication. Although acute medications were consented, no specific symptomatic drugs were recommended during follow-up.

The 3-month responder rate (the proportion of patients achieving ≥50% reduction in the number of days with headache per month) was 23.8% for the placebo arm and 45% for the VPA arm, while after the 3-month follow-up period this rate did not differ between the two groups [10].

Statistical analysis

Demographic (sex, age), clinical (body mass index, comorbidity, surgery) and headache characteristics (frequency, intensity, total and MOH duration, overused drugs) in Responders and Non-Responders (R and NR, respectively) from both study arms were compared. Psychiatric comorbidities and personality traits were assessed using the following inventories: Modified MINI-International Neuropsychiatric Interview [11]: 0 vs. 1+ psychiatric disorders; Beck Anxiety Inventory [12]: 0-21vs. 22+; Beck Depression Inventory [13]: 0–10, 11–20, 21+, Yale Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale [14]: 0 vs. 1+; Leeds Dependence Questionnaire [15]: <10, 10–22, >22. All variables were categorized and assessed using the Fisher exact test. Statistical significance was set at the 5% level. Data was analyzed using the SAS package for PC (SAS Institute, Cary, NV; version 9.2).

Findings

For patients in the VPA arm, no differences between R and NR were observed fordemographic, clinical and headache characteristics (Table 1). Conversely, for patients in the placebo group, treated by detoxification and advice to withdraw from MOH, a significant difference between R and NR was found only for headache duration, while all the other variables were evenly distributed (Table 2). Specifically, in MOH patients with a history of migraine longer than 30 years, the probability of response to detoxification and advice to withdraw from drug abuse was irrelevant.
Table 1

Comparison of demographic and clinical characteristics between responders and non-responders from VPA arm

 

Responders

Non-responders

 

(N = 18)

(N = 26)

 
 

N

%

N

%

p-value

Sex

     

 F

14

77.8

21

80.8

0.8089

 M

4

22.2

5

19.2

 

Age class (years)

 18-34

2

11.1

3

11.5

0.8259

 35-44

9

50

11

42.3

 

 45-54

4

22.2

9

34.6

 

 55-64

3

16.7

3

11.5

 

BMI class

 (<18) underweight

0

0

1

3.9

0.4251

 (18–24.9) normal weight

8

44.4

16

61.5

 

 (25–29.9) overweight

8

44.4

6

23.1

 

 (>30) obese

2

11.2

3

11.5

 

Comorbidity

 No

17

94.4

20

76.9

0.1182

 Yes

1

5.6

6

23.1

 

Surgery

 No

2

11.8

6

24

0.3216

 Yes

15

88.2

19

76

 

 Missing

1

 

1

  

Headache days/months (V1)

 15-25

12

66.7

14

53.8

0.4405

 >25

6

33.3

12

46.2

 

Headache intensity (V1)

 Slight

0

0

1

3.8

0.6987

 Moderate

6

33.3

8

30.8

 

 Severe

12

66.7

17

65.4

 

Headache days/month (V2)

 15-25

17

94.4

19

73.1

0.1216

 >25

1

5.6

7

26.9

 

Headache intensity (V2)

 Slight

3

16.7

3

11.5

0.7040

 Moderate

11

61.1

19

73.1

 

 Severe

4

22.1

4

15.4

 

Headache duration (years)

 0-10

1

5.6

5

19.2

0.4249

 11-20

6

33.3

7

26.9

 

 21-30

7

38.9

6

23.1

 

 >30

4

22.2

8

30.7

 

 MOH duration (years)

     

 <1

2

11.1

4

15.4

0.5182

 1-3

4

22.2

6

23.1

 

 3-5

7

38.9

5

19.2

 

 >5

5

27.8

11

42.3

 

Overused drugs

 Analgesics >14d

9

50

6

23.1

0.2703

 Analgesics combinations >9d

2

11.1

3

11.5

 

 Drug combinations >9d

2

11.1

7

26.9

 

 Triptan combinations >9d

5

27.8

10

38.5

 

VPA: sodium valproate.

BMI: body mass index.

V1: baseline first visit.

V2: second visit at the start of detoxification.

d: days.

Table 2

Comparison of demographic and clinical characteristics between responders and non-responders from placebo arm

 

Responders

Non-responders

 

(N = 10)

(N = 34)

 
 

N

%

N

%

p-value

Sex

 F

10

100

24

70.6

0.0853

 M

0

0

10

29.4

 

Age class (years)

 18-34

4

40

4

11.8

0.2563

 35-44

2

20

12

35.3

 

 45-54

3

30

14

41.2

 

 55-64

1

10

4

11.7

 

BMI class

 (<18) underweight

0

0

2

6.1

0.9166

 (18–24.9) normal weight

6

60

21

63.6

 

 (25–29.9) overweight

3

30

6

18.2

 

 (>30) obese

1

10

4

12.1

 

 NS

  

1

  

Comorbidity

 No

6

60

23

67.7

0.7138

 Yes

4

40

11

32.3

 

Surgery

 No

2

22.2

15

44.1

0.2807

 Yes

7

77.8

19

55.9

 

 Missing

1

    

Headache days/months (V1)

 15-25

6

60

20

58.8

1.000

 >25

4

40

14

41.2

 

Headache intensity (V1)

 Slight

1

10

1

2.9

0.1818

 Moderate

2

20

16

47.1

 

 Severe

7

70

17

50

 

Headache days/month (V2)

 <15

0

0

2

5.9

1.000

 15-25

6

60

20

58.8

 

 >25

4

40

12

35.3

 

Headache intensity (V2)

 Slight

0

0

3

8.8

0.2947

 Moderate

8

80

17

50

 

 Severe

2

20

14

41.2

 

Headache duration (years)

 0-10

2

20

5

14.7

0.0229

 11-20

1

10

6

17.6

 

 21-30

7

70

9

26.5

 

 >30

0

0

14

41.2

 

MOH duration (years)

 <1

1

10

5

14.7

0.9159

 1-3

4

40

11

32.4

 

 3-5

1

10

7

20.6

 

 >5

4

40

11

32.3

 

Overused drugs

 Analgesics >14d

3

30

12

35.3

0.7442

 Analgesics combinations >9d

2

20

5

14.7

 

 Drug combinations >9d

4

40

9

26.5

 

 Triptan combinations >9d

1

10

8

23.5

 

BMI: body mass index.

V1: baseline first visit.

V2: second visit at the start of detoxification.

d: days.

With reference to psychiatric comorbidity and personality traits, none of the assessed inventories differed between R and NR (data not shown).

Discussion

To our knowledge, this is one of the few studies analyzing a possible correlation between demographic, clinical and headache characteristics of MOH patients and response to treatment. Our findings suggest that, in presence of a headache lasting more than 30 years, patients seem to have no benefit from detoxification and advice to withdraw from drug abuse, despite the possible placebo effect. Previously, in a cross-sectional epidemiological survey, the severity of dependence scale score could predict successful prognosis related to detoxification in MOH patients without other complicating secondary headaches [16].

The challenge of achieving a stable withdrawal from medication overuse is one of the most disputed aspects in the treatment of MOH. This lack of agreement is, for the most part, due to the heterogeneity of patients, overused medications, detoxification procedures and protocol designs [17].

Detoxification is often the first step in withdrawal from medication overuse. In this regard, some studies have suggested benefits from detoxification followed by advice for MOH [9]. Other studies have supported the efficacy of simple advice as a withdrawal strategy in MOH [18, 19]. However, in most of these studies there were no controls nor comparisons between responders and non-responders.

The results from our study suggest that in MOH patients with a history of headache longer than 30 years, even in the absence of relevant comorbidities, there is no benefit from detoxification and advice without preventive therapy. This lack of benefit could be due to the lingering central sensitization underlying the pathophysiology of MOH [17]. In these cases, we would suggest an immediate initiation of a prophylactic treatment, to avoid a relapse of drug abuse. This therapeutic approach could lead to a swifter clinical response, better quality of life and economic savings. It is also interesting that MOH duration did not differ in R and NR; this aspect should be further investigated, in order to hypothesize common or different pathophysiological mechanisms for migraine and MOH.

Our study has some limitations. First, the available sample size is incompatible with definitive results regarding the demographic and clinical characteristics we investigated. Given the small numbers, we could not perform a multivariate analysis of our data. So, headache duration may be masked by other confounding variables. Second, some of the patients in our study were included in the placebo arm of the SAMOHA study and, as such, they did not know if they were untreated. Even if a placebo effect cannot be ignored in MOH patients, the validity of our research hypothesis is weakened but not entirely excluded. Third, as our study analyzed the short-term efficacy of treatment, the long-term response to detoxification and advise is unknown.

In conclusion, in the case of headache of long duration our findings suggest that the benefit from detoxification and advice can be excluded in MOH patients. Therefore, a preventive treatment is suggested for these patients. Larger studies with longer follow-up are needed on this issue as their results could lead to a better management of MOH patients.

Abbreviations

MOH: 

Medication-overuse headache

SAMOHA: 

Sodium vAlproate in the treatment of Medication Overuse HeadAche

VPA: 

Sodium valproate

R: 

Responders

NR: 

Non-responders.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

SAMOHA Study Group: Elisabetta Pupillo, PhD (Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri”, Milano, Italy); L.A. Pini, MD (Centro Cefalee, Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy); Cesare Iani, MD (Centro Cefalee e Malattie Cerebrovascolari, Ospedale S. Eugenio, Roma, Italy); P. Livrea, MD and Maria Pia Prudenzano, MD (Clinica Neurologica, Policlinico di Bari, Italy); G. Bernardi, MD and Marina Diomedi, MD (Clinica Neurologica, Policlinico Tor Vergata, Roma, Italy); G. Tedeschi MD and Antonio Russo, MD (Clinica Neurologica, II Università degli Studi di Napoli, Italy); F. Pisani, MD and Laura Rosa Pisani, MD (Clinica Neurologica, Università di Messina, Italy); G. Bono, MD and Giulia Misaggi, MD (Centro Cefalee/Sez. UCADH - Università degli Studi dell’Insubria, Varese, Italy); V. Di Piero, MD and Laura Di Clemente, MD (Dipartimento di Neurologia e Psichiatria “Sapienza” Università di Roma, Italy); G. Sandrini, MD and Marta Allena, MD (IRCCS Fondazione “Istituto Mondino”, Università di Pavia, Italy). Dr. Sarchielli confirms that obtained written permission from each co-investigator.

Funding

This project proposal was approved and funded (announcement year 2006) by “Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco” as part of the project AREA “Pharmacoepidemiological studies aimed at defining the benefit-risk profile of treatments and the impact of strategies for improving the appropriateness of drug use. TOPIC: Studies on pharmacological treatments of chronic headache”.

Dr. Sarchielli had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Clinica Neurologica, Azienda Ospedaliera, Università di Perugia, Sant’Andrea delle Fratte
(2)
IRCCS - Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri”
(3)
Centro Cefalee e Malattie Cerebrovascolari, Ospedale S. Eugenio, Piazzale dell’Umanesimo
(4)
IRCCS Fondazione “S. Lucia”

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Copyright

© Caproni et al.; licensee Springer. 2014

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