Enhancing the Effectiveness of Abortive Therapy: A Controlled Evaluation of Self-Management Training




Research suggests that approximately one half of recurrent headache sufferers fail to adhere properly to drug treatment regimens with as many as two thirds of patients failing to make optimal use of abortive medications such as ergotamine. In spite of these findings there are no controlled studies that have attempted to evaluate methods for improving adherence to drug regimens for the treatment of chronic headache disorders. In an initial effort to address this adherence problem thirty-four recurrent migraine sufferers were randomized to abortive therapy with ergotamine tartrate plus caffeine (standard abortive therapy) or to standard abortive therapy accompanied by a brief educational intervention designed to facilitate the migraine sufferer's effective use of ergotamine. Patients who received the adjunctive educational intervention attempted to abort a greater percentage of their migraine attacks (70% vs 40%) and showed larger reductions in headache activity (e.g., 40% vs 26%reduction in month two of treatment). However, patients in both treatment groups used similar amounts of abortive medication when attempting to abort a migraine attack and showed similar reductions in analgesic medication use with abortive therapy. There results suggest that brief educational interventions designed to address the problem of patient adherence may yield significant improvements in standard therapies. We argue that such educational interventions deserve more attention in the headache treatment literature than they have received to date.