Adding additional acute medications to a triptan regimen for migraine and observed changes in headache-related disability: Results from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) study

Dawn C. Buse, Daniel Serrano, Michael L. Reed, Shashi H. Kori, Cedric M. Cunanan, Aubrey Manack Adams, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background Though triptans are the most widely used acute treatments for migraine, response to treatment is sometimes suboptimal. Triptan therapy is often augmented by the addition of other acute treatments. The benefits of this practice have not been examined in large-scale, real-world observational studies. Objectives To assess changes in headache-related disability associated with adding additional acute treatments to a triptan regimen by category of added treatment including: a second triptan, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), opioids or barbiturates. Methods Subjects were participants in the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention study, a longitudinal, US population-based study of individuals with "severe" headache. Respondents who met International Classification of Headache Disorders 3 beta criteria for migraine were on triptan therapy per respondent self-report, used the same triptan, and provided headache-related disability data for at least 2 consecutive years. Subjects were divided based on headache days per month into 3 groups: low-frequency episodic migraine (LFEM, 0-4), moderate-frequency episodic migraine (MFEM, 5-9), and high-frequency episodic migraine/chronic migraine (HFEM/CM,-≥-10 headache days per month). HFEM and CM were combined into a single group for analyses because of sample size limitations. Patterns of acute treatment for migraine were monitored from one year to the next over the following couplets of years (2005-2006, 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009). The first eligible couplet was analyzed for each respondent. Medication regimens studied included: (1) maintaining current triptan use (consistent group); (2) adding a different triptan; (3) adding an NSAID; or (4) adding a combination analgesic containing opioids or barbiturates. We assessed change in Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) score from the first to the second year of a couplet, contrasting scores of participants with consistent use with those who added an acute treatment to their triptan regimen. Results The study sample (N-=-2128) included 111 individuals who added another triptan, 118 who added an opioid or barbiturate, and 69 who added an NSAID, with referent groups of approximately 600 cases in each group who remained consistent. In general, MIDAS scores were higher among those who made changes from one year to the next compared with those who did not make changes in therapy. In fully adjusted models, adding triptans or NSAIDs was associated with increased disability for HFEM/CM cases at follow-up but decreased disability at follow-up for MFEM cases, resulting in significant interaction effects for both adding triptans and NSAIDs, respectively (15.88, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.75, 31.01, 38.52, 95% CI 12.43, 64.61). Conclusions While the effects of adding vs staying consistent on the outcome of headache-related disability varied by medication type added and headache frequency strata, in general, these results suggest that for individuals with migraine, adding acute therapies to current triptan use is generally not associated with reductions in headache-related disability. The results were strongest among persons with HFEM and CM. These results identify important unmet medical needs in current migraine management, especially among patients with high-frequency migraine, and suggest that alternative treatment strategies are needed to improve patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-839
Number of pages15
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • disability
  • migraine
  • triptan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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