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Sertraline versus amitriptyline in the prophylactic therapy of non-depressed chronic tension-type headache patients

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Patients with chronic tension- type headache (CTTH) are the most difficult to treat. Tricyclic antidepressants are the first-line therapeutic agents, but their anticholinergic side effects limit their usage. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) with fewer side effects than tricyclic antidepressants have also been used in treatment of CTTH, but the results are conflicting. In this study, prophylactic action of sertraline in treatment of nondepressed patients with CTTH was investigated and compared with amitriptyline in a prospective, randomized, open label, parallel-group study. A 4-week baseline period was followed by a 12-week treatment period with either 50 mg sertraline (n=41 patients) or 25 mg amitriptyline (n=44 patients). Efficacies of treatments were determined by using a headache diary, in which patients recorded the occurrence, number, intensity and duration of headaches in days, analgesic drug consumption and any adverse events. Both drugs reduced headache symptoms and analgesic drug consumption at the first, second and third months of treatment compared to baseline values. There was significant superiority of amitriptyline in the headache symptoms and drug consumption reductions versus sertraline at the second and third months of treatment. Side effects were more favorable in the sertraline-treated patients, but dropouts were similar in both groups. These results suggest that both drugs were effective in the treatment of non-depressed patients with CTTH, but in comparison between groups, amitriptyline was more effective than sertraline.

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Correspondence to Cavit Boz.

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Key words

  • Chronic tension-type headache
  • Prophylaxis
  • Sertraline
  • Amitriptyline


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