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Headache Treatment Is Up, But Not with Best Medicines

While more people are being treated for migraine and severe headaches than ever before, many of them are not getting appropriate medications for their condition. According to a study that assessed trends in prescribing medications, more opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants and barbiturates are used than in the past even though more migraine-specific medications are now available. Opioids and barbiturates particularly raise concerns because they’re linked to an increased risk of chronic daily headache.

“Even when more specific treatments became available, patients continued to be prescribed other medications,” said Catherine Buettner, MD, from the Harvard Medical School in Boston, who presented the study at the American Headache Society meeting.

On the other hand, use of over-the-counter drugs and NSAIDs on a daily basis—which is linked to medication overuse headache—has decreased. “The good news is that headaches are being taken seriously and are being treated,” said Dr. Buettner. “Now we just need to make sure that patients are receiving the right medications.”

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