Treatment of withdrawal headache in patients with medication overuse headache: a pilot study

Sabina Cevoli, Giulia Giannini, Valentina Favoni, Rossana Terlizzi, Elisa Sancisi, Marianna Nicodemo, Stefano Zanigni, Maria Letizia Bacchi Reggiani, Giulia Pierangeli, Pietro Cortelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Drug withdrawal still remains the key element in the treatment of Medication Overuse Headache (MOH), but there is no consensus about the withdrawal procedure. Still debated is the role of the steroid therapy. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of methylprednisolone or paracetamol in the treatment of withdrawal headache in MOH. Methods: We performed a pilot, randomized, single-blinded, placebo controlled trial. MOH patients, unresponsive to a 3 months prophylaxis, underwent withdrawal therapy on an inpatient basis. Overused medications were abruptly stopped and methylprednisolone 500 mg i.v (A) or paracetamol 4 g i.v. (B) or placebo i.v. (C) were given daily for 5 days. Patients were monitored at 1 and 3 months. Results: Eighty three consecutive MOH patients were enrolled. Fifty seven patients completed the study protocol. Nineteen patients were randomized to each group. Withdrawal headache on the 5th day was absent in 21.0% of group A, in 31.6% of group B and in 12.5% of group C without significant differences. Withdrawal headache intensity decreased significantly after withdrawal without differences among the groups. Rregardless of withdrawal treatment, 52% MOH patients reverted to an episodic migraine and 62% had no more medication overuse after 3 months. Conclusions: This study suggests that in a population of severe MOH patients, withdrawal headache decreased significantly in the first 5 days of withdrawal regardless of the treatment used. Methylprednisolone and paracetamol are not superior to placebo at the end of the detoxification program.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Detoxification
  • Medication overuse headache
  • Migraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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