Stopping onabotulinum treatment after the first two cycles might not be justified: Results of a real-life monocentric prospective study in chronic migraine

Paola Sarchielli, Michele Romoli, Ilenia Corbelli, Laura Bernetti, Angela Verzina, Elona Brahimi, Paolo Eusebi, Stefano Caproni, Paolo Calabresi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: Onabotulinum toxin A (OnabotA) cyclic treatment is approved for the prophylactic treatment of chronic migraine (CM), a highly disabling disorder. Although treatment response varies among patients, current guidelines suggest to stop treatment after cycle 2 if no response is achieved. This prospective study aimed to define, in real-life setting, the evolution of the response to OnabotA over five cycles of treatment among patients non-responding to cycle 1. The results of this study might help in decision-making, in particular whether prosecuting OnabotA further or not, when facing a patient not responding to cycle 1. Methods: Patients failing to respond at cycle 1 were recruited to complete five cycles. Key outcomes were: (i) a ≥50% reduction in headache days, (ii) a ≥50% reduction in total cumulative hours of headache on headache days and (iii) a ≥5-point improvement in Headache Impact Test-6 (HIT-6) scores. Results: Overall, 56 patients were included. Mean age was 45.7 years (female 83.9%). Severe (≥60) HIT-6 score was reported at baseline by 95.8% of patients. Responders (headache days reduction of more than 50%) progressively increased cycle after cycle, doubling from cycle 2 to cycle 5 (from 27 to 48%). In addition, patients regressed from CM to episodic migraine moving on with each cycle, with 78% of them reaching less than nine migraine days/month after cycle 5. The headache days per month decreased significantly from cycle 1 to cycle 5 (overall from 23.3 ± 5.7 to 9.2 ± 3.6; p < 0.001). During 12 months (5 cycles), migraine days per month progressively abated (from 18.5 to 8.7; p < 0.001), days with symptomatic medications intake/month consistently decreased (from 17.4 to 8.1; p < 0.001), and mean HIT-6 score lowered (from 72.4 ± 5.7 to 50.2 ± 4.3; p < 0.001). Conclusion: The positive effect of OnabotA treatment spreads over the course of the treatment and might also manifest late in treatment course among patients with no benefit after the first two cycles. Thus, the results of this real-life study suggest to extend OnabotA treatment further, beyond cycle 2, to avoid premature withdrawal in patients who would have become responders at cycle 3, 4, or 5.

Original languageEnglish
Article number655
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - Dec 4 2017



  • Botox
  • Chronic migraine
  • Migraine
  • Migraine treatment
  • Onabotulinum toxin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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