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Tolfenamic Acid Rapid Release Versus Sumatriptan in the Acute Treatment of Migraine: Comparable Effect in a Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled, Parallel-Group Study

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The efficacy and safety of tolfenamic acid and oral sumatriptan in the acute treatment of migraine was studied at five neurological centers in Finland. One hundred forty-one patients experiencing 289 migraine attacks, fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for migraine with or without aura as defined by the International Headache Society, were randomized.

For first attacks, 77% of patients receiving tolfenamic acid experienced a reduction of the initial severe or moderate headache to mild or no headache after 2 hours, as compared to 79% in the sumatriptan group and 29% in the placebo group. No significant difference was found between active treatments (P=0.85, 95% Cl [−22%, 18%]), however, both active treatments were significantly better than placebo; P=0.001, 95% Cl (26%, 69%) for tolfenamic acid and P=0.001, 95% Cl (28%, 71%) for sumatriptan. For second attacks, results were similar with 70% of patients receiving tolfenamic acid experiencing relief, as compared to 64% in the sumatriptan group and 39% in the placebo group.

No significant differences were observed in accompanying symptoms.

Both drugs were well tolerated with the frequency of adverse events; 30% for tolfenamic acid and 41% for sumatriptan, a nonsignificant difference.

In this study, tolfenamic acid and oral sumatriptan are comparably effective in the acute treatment of migraine. When comparably effective, factors like individual effect, tolerance, and cost of treatment should be considered when prescribing migraine medication.

Keywords: acute treatment; migraine; randomized controlled trial; sumatriptan; tolfenamic acid

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: From the Department of Neurology, University of Oulu, Finland (Drs. Myllylä and Turkka); 2: Länsi-Pohja Central Hospital, Kemi, Finland (Dr. Havanka); 3: Kainuu Central Hospital, Kajaani, Finland (Dr. Herrala); 4: Department of Neurology, University of Turku, Finland (Dr. Kangasniemi); 5: Lapland Central Hospital, Rovaniemi, Finland (Dr. Rautakorpi); 6: Department of Pharmacology, University of Helsinki, Finland (Dr. Vapaatalo); and 7: A/S GEA Farmaceutisk Fabrik, Frederiksberg, Denmark (Dr. Eskerod).

Publication date: March 1, 1998


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