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Combination of low-dose mirtazapine and ibuprofen for prophylaxis of chronic tension-type headache


Lars Bendtsen, Department of Neurology, Danish Headache Center, Glostrup Hospital, University of Copenhagen, DK-2600 Glostrup, Copenhagen, Denmark (tel.: +45 43232063; fax: +45 43233839; e-mail:


Chronic headaches are difficult to treat and represent the biggest challenge in headache centres. Mirtazapine has a prophylactic and ibuprofen an acute effect in tension-type headache. Combination therapy may increase efficacy and lower side effects. We aimed to evaluate the prophylactic effect of a combination of low-dose mirtazapine and ibuprofen in chronic tension-type headache. Ninety-three patients were included in the double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial. Following a 4-week run-in period they were randomized to four groups for treatment with a combination of mirtazapine 4.5 mg and ibuprofen 400 mg, placebo, mirtazapine 4.5 mg or ibuprofen 400 mg daily for 8 weeks. Eighty-four patients completed the study. The primary efficacy parameter, change in area under the headache curve from run-in to the last 4 weeks of treatment, did not differ between combination therapy (190) and placebo (219), P = 0.85. Explanatory analyses revealed worsening of headache already in the third week of treatment with ibuprofen alone. In conclusion, the combination of low-dose mirtazapine and ibuprofen is not effective for the treatment of chronic tension-type headache. Moreover, the study suggests that daily intake of ibuprofen worsens headache already after few weeks in chronic tension-type headache.