• headache;
  • migraine;
  • prescription medication

Objective.—The primary objectives were to examine national trends of prescription medication use for headache and explore patterns of variation in the use of these medications across social and demographic levels.

Background.—Despite widespread use of prescription medication for management of headache, little is known about utilization patterns or patient characteristics associated with receiving this type of treatment.

Methods.—This study conducted a secondary analysis of data obtained during the 2000 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a representative survey of the U.S. noninstitutionalized population. Weighted descriptive statistics and logistic regression models were used to evaluate patterns and rates of overall prescription medication use in patients reporting headache as a household condition.

Results.—An estimated 9.7 million people 18 years or older reported suffering from headache in 2000. Of these, 46% reported using at least one medication for the treatment of headache. Migraine-specific abortive medication (ie, selective serotonin receptor agonists and ergotamine derivatives) was the most frequently reported medication class, used by 36% of participants. Opiate analgesics and butalbital-containing products also experienced extensive prescribing reported by 22% and 17% of survey respondents, respectively. After adjustment for covariates, wide variation in the use of prescription medication was observed across sociodemographic characteristics including age, ethnicity, and insurance status.

Conclusion.—The observed variation in prescription medication use by drug class and sociodemographic characteristics suggests strategies are needed for improving current prescribing patterns in this patient population.