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Pharmacological treatment of attacks in juvenile migraine


Although migraine is a common complaint in childhood and adolescence, there is a lack of controlled clinical studies regarding treatment. In the young patient, the pharmacological approach should be preceded by setting up non-pharmacological measures which include behavioural intervention. The sole use of symptomatic therapies should be limited to patients who complain of up to four partially or totally disabling attacks, or those who suffer from headache for more than 4 days per month. The therapeutic armamentarium includes non-specific symptomatic drugs, such as analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as well as anti-emetics and specific drugs, such as the triptans. Analgesics and NSAIDs are the most frequently used drugs in childhood and adolescence for the symptomatic treatment of migraine attacks of slight or moderate intensity. The first-choice drug for those under 12 years of age is acetaminophen. Among NSAIDs, two double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies were conducted for ibuprofen, supporting its efficacy. In the past, ergot derivatives played an important role in the treatment of spontaneous migraine attacks, particularly in adults, but after the triptan revolution their role was strongly confined to a small number of patients. Although they are considered first-choice drugs for moderate and severe migraine attacks in adults, triptans are still under study in migraine patients under 18 years of age. The Health Ministry rules do not approve their use in patients under 18 years. They can only be given legally if the therapeutic plan for their use is previously approved by the Ethics Committee and after informed consent from the patient/parents. Promising results have been obtained, particularly for sumatriptan in nasal spray formulation as well as for zolmitriptan and rizatriptan, showing a high tolerability and safety profile.

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Correspondence to Beatrice Gallai.

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Gallai, B., Mazzotta, G. & Sarchielli, P. Pharmacological treatment of attacks in juvenile migraine. J Headache Pain 5, s62–s66 (2004).

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Key words

  • Migraine
  • Analgesics
  • Triptans