Medication overuse headache

Mark W Green
Current Opinion in Neurology 2021 March 11

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Medication overuse headache (MOH)is a disabling problem worldwide with areas of controversy regarding its cause. This article reviews the recent ideas regarding the development of this disorder and its effective management.

RECENT FINDINGS: It has been proposed that all acute migraine medications can lead to MOH, with differences in the propensity of different agents to cause the problem. Early data suggests that gepants, which are small-molecule calcitonin gene-related peptide antagonists used for the acute treatment of migraine, may be an exception. Recent studies show that practitioners and the general public are still largely unaware of the problem of medication overuse and its damaging effects.

SUMMARY: MOH is an accepted concept of an increase in headaches driven by the frequent administration of acute antimigraine drugs. The impressions of providers, and studies documenting the concept may be flawed. Although it is likely that MOH does occur, and restricting the amount of acute medications is necessary to prevent it, it is also possible that increasing amounts of acute medications are simply a reflection of poorly controlled headaches, rather than a cause. Objective markers need to be developed to identify those who have MOH, which does not include all with chronic migraine, and to use these markers in diagnosis and management, particularly in those patients where the frequent acute drugs might only be a reflection of frequent headaches, rather than a cause.

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