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Placebo for Migraine Helps Children as Well as Drugs Do, Study Finds

Drugs don’t always work – there’s a better way

By Michael Cohen

Have kids or teens with migraines?  New research suggests that medications don’t work better than a sugar pill. Read about the study below.

When you have a child in misery with a migraine it’s hard to know what to do. You worry about medication’s side effects. There is a lack of clear knowledge about how well medications work in the younger population and how safe it is. Plus, migraine medication is designed for pain relief but typically doesn’t reduce the number of migraines. The study described below is evidence that drugs don’t always work – and there’s a better way.

24-week study on migraine medications shows limited effects for 8-17 year olds

The research involved a multi-center 24-week study of 328 patients, ages 8-17, coordinated by the Cincinnati Children’s Headache Center.  Findings were reported in the October 27, 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

The two drugs being looked at were amitriptyline (Elavil) and topiramate (Topamax). Participants in the control group received a “sugar pill.”

Almost no difference except fewer side effects for placebo group

The researchers considered a reduction in frequency of headaches by at least 50 percent to be “clinically meaningful.” Fifty-two percent of the subjects taking amitriptyline and 55 percent taking topiramate had a reduction of at least 50 percent. Those taking the placebo reported a surprising 61 percent reduction.

Additionally, patients taking the medications reported many more side effects than the control group. Common side effects included fatigue, dry mouth and changes in mood. Thirty one percent of the patients on topiramate reported paresthesia, a tingling in the extremities.

“The study was intended to demonstrate which of the commonly used preventive medications in migraine was the most effective. What we found is that we could prevent these headaches with either a medication or a placebo,” said Andrew Hershey, MD, PhD, co-director of the Cincinnati Children’s Headache Center and senior author of the study.

“This study suggests that a multi-disciplinary approach and the expectation of response is the most important, not necessarily the prescription provided.”

A non-medication approach

This study is good news for parents of children who get migraines, who worry about giving their children powerful drugs.

The findings indicate that non-drug approaches such as neurofeedback can be the first line of treatment to address the problem without (1) the risk of side effects and (2) the unknown long-term impact of drugs on their child’s developing brain.

Your child’s doctor may not have told you about neurofeedback because he or she may not know about it, but you have nothing to lose by trying it before giving your child a powerful drug.

Two studies on neurofeedback and migraines have shown that neurofeedback helps reduce both the number and intensity of migraines 80-90% of the time.

Neurofeedback frequently can interrupt, diminish or extinguish a migraine headache in process. However, its real benefit is its ability to greatly diminish the frequency and intensity of future migraines, with absolutely no known side effects. Its ability to do so also typically has long-lasting impact.

Imagine how wonderful that would be for your child!

We treat children with migraines as young as three at Center for Brain.

Free consultation

If you have a child experiencing serious and recurring headaches who has been medically evaluated to rule out any serious medical issue, I urge you to take advantage of a free consultation with me to help determine if I think we can help.

For an appointment or for more information call: 561-744-7616 or email info@centerforbrain.com.

 

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