• migraine;
  • headache;
  • pain;
  • analgesics;
  • narcotics;
  • multicenter

We studied transnasal butorphanol (Stadol NS·) for pain relief during acute migraine in a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial using ambulatory patients at 10 geographically diverse headache centers. Patients were volunteer adults diagnosed with migraine with or without aura by International Headache Society criteria. One hundred fifty-seven patients completed the study. We treated the pain of one headache in each patient with either transnasal butorphanol (n=107) or transnasal placebo (n=50). Pain relief, pain intensity, nausea, vomiting, and effect on function were measured periodically. Adverse experiences were documented. Global assessments were made at follow-up. With butorphanol, migraine pain was reduced from moderate, severe, or incapacitating to slight or absent for 35 patients (33%) within 30 minutes, for 50 patients (47%) within 1 hour, and for 76 (71%) within 6 hours, compared to 2 (4%) 8 (16%) and 15 (30%) respectively for placebo. Side effects were prominent, though confounded by the migraine. The most common side effects, compared to placebo, were dizziness (58% vs 4%), nausea and/or vomiting (38% vs 18%), and drowsiness (29% vs 0%). We conclude that transnasal butorphanol is a useful analgesic for the pain of acute migraine. Its prominent side effects and low self reinforcement rate may limit its usefulness in some patients, while increasing its appropriateness for others.