Interferon treatment may trigger primary headaches in multiple sclerosis patients

Loredana La Mantia, D. D'Amico, A. Rigamonti, N. Mascoli, G. Bussone, C. Milanese

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Recent data have suggested that interferon-β (IFN-β) may aggravate headaches in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. The aim of this study was to investigate the life-time prevalence of primary headaches in MS patients treated with interferons in comparison with patients treated with other disease-modifying agents. Attention was focused on the onset of headache and the changes in pre-existing headaches in relation to the onset of therapy. The study was open-labelled and not randomized. We studied 150 consecutive MS patients treated with IFN-β (109 patients: 54 with 1b, 55 with 1a) and with other drugs (41 patients: 14 with glatiramer acetate, 27 with azathioprine). All patients underwent a semi-structured interview to diagnose headache type, according to the International Headache Society criteria. The frequency of primary headaches was higher in the interferon-group (72%) compared to patients in the other group (54%) (P = 0.03). Worsening of pre-existing headaches or development of de novo headache occurred only in the interferon-group (41 and 48%, respectively) and not in the other group (P <0.001). These results show that headache should be considered among the side-effects of interferon in MS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-480
Number of pages5
JournalMultiple Sclerosis Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • Azathioprine
  • Glatiramer acetate
  • Interferon-β-1a
  • Interferon-β-1b
  • International headache society (IHS) criteria
  • Migraine
  • Primary headaches
  • Tension-type headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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