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Nonspecific oral medications versus anti-calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibodies for migraine: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Headache 2024 April 19
OBJECTIVE: To compare calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibodies (CGRP mAbs) versus nonspecific oral migraine preventives (NOEPs).

BACKGROUND: Insurers mandate step therapy with NOEPs before approving CGRP mAbs.

METHODS: Databases were searched for class I or II randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing CGRP mAbs or NOEPs versus placebo for migraine prevention in adults. The primary outcome measure was monthly migraine days (MMD) or moderate to severe headache days.

RESULTS: Twelve RCTs for CGRP mAbs, 5 RCTs for topiramate, and 3 RCTs for divalproex were included in the meta-analysis. There was high certainty that CGRP mAbs are more effective than placebo, with weighted mean difference (WMD; 95% confidence interval) of -1.64 (-1.99 to -1.28) MMD, which is compatible with small effect size (Cohen's d -0.25 [-0.34 to -0.16]). Certainty of evidence that topiramate or divalproex is more effective than placebo was very low and low, respectively (WMD -1.45 [-1.52 to -1.38] and -1.65 [-2.30 to -1.00], respectively; Cohen's d -1.25 [-2.47 to -0.03] and -0.48 [-0.67 to -0.29], respectively). Trial sequential analysis showed that information size was adequate and that CGRP mAbs had clear benefit versus placebo. Network meta-analysis showed no statistically significant difference between CGRP mAbs and topiramate (WMD -0.19 [-0.56 to 0.17]) or divalproex (0.01 [-0.73 to 0.75]). No significant difference was seen between topiramate or divalproex (0.21 [-0.45 to 0.86]).

CONCLUSIONS: There is high certainty that CGRP mAbs are more effective than placebo, but the effect size is small. When feasible, CGRP mAbs may be prescribed as first-line preventives; topiramate or divalproex could be as effective but are less well tolerated. The findings of this study support the recently published 2024 position of the American Headache Society on the use of CGRP mAbs as the first-line treatment.

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