In other Migraine in Aotearoa New Zealand Survey 2022 key insight reports, we’ve looked at how many people were taking prescription medication to prevent migraine, as well as supplements, hormones, injections and non-medication approaches.
We’ve noted the downsides of many of the older, non-specific preventive medications – their slow onset of action, inadequate effectiveness and intolerable side effects.¹ These downsides mean many people don’t stay on the medications and may have to try several different types of medication before they find one that works. These medications can also stop working over time.
To investigate this further, we analysed how many prescribed oral medications people said they’d previously used, or were currently using, for migraine prevention. This included all the specific medications asked about in the survey by name (antidepressants, antiepileptics, antihypertensives, pizotifen and melatonin) but excluded female/male hormones, botox and other injections and over-the-counter supplements. International research has found that among people with migraine who have ever used preventive medication, the average number used was four for people with chronic migraine and three for people with episodic migraine.²
In our survey, on average, people with chronic migraine* had previously used 3.6 medications for migraine prevention; people with episodic migraine had used an average of 1.5. This was for the whole sample, which includes those who hadn’t previously used any preventive medications (47% of those with episodic migraine and 18% of those with chronic migraine). If we just looked at people who had previously used one of these medications, the average number of medications used was 4.4 for people with chronic migraine and 2.9 for people with episodic migraine – very similar to what has been found in other countries. People with chronic migraine were more likely to have tried seven or more preventive medications.
The maximum number of medications previously used was 18, but this was an outlier – the next highest number of medications previously used was 13.