Rizatriptan is an effective and fast acting drug for the acute treatment of migraine. Some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) have also demonstrated efficacy in treating migraine attacks. There is evidence that the combination of a triptan and a NSAID decreases migraine recurrence in clinical practice. The primary aim of this randomized open label study was to assess the recurrence rates in migraine sufferers acutely treated with rizatriptan (RI) alone vs. rizatriptan plus a COX-2 enzyme inhibitor (rofecoxib, RO) vs. rizatriptan plus a traditional NSAID (tolfenamic acid, TO). We were also interested in comparing the efficacy rates within these three groups.
We assessed 45 patients from a headache clinic in Rio de Janeiro (35 women and 10 men, ages 18 to 65 years, mean 37 years). Patients with IHS migraine were randomized to one out of 3 groups, where they had to treat 6 consecutive moderate or severe attacks in counterbalanced order. In group 1, patients treated the first two attacks with 10 mg RI, the third and fourth attacks with RI + 50 mg RO and the last attacks with RI + 200 mg of TA. In group 2, we began with RI + TA, followed by RI, and RI + RO. Group 3 treated in the following order: RI + RO, RI + TA, RI alone. The presence of headache, nausea and photophobia at 1, 2 and 4 hours, as well as recurrence and side effects were compared.
A total of 33 patients finished the study, treating 184 attacks. The pain-free rates at 1 hour were: RI: 15.5%; RI + RO: 22.6%; RI + TA: 20.3%(NS). Pain-free rates at 2 h were: RI: 37.9%; RI + RO: 62.9%, and RI + TA: 40.6% (p = 0.008 for RI vs. RI + RO; p = 0.007 for RI + RO vs. RI + TA, NS for RI vs RI + TA). At 4 h, pain-free rates were: RI: 69%; RI + RO: 82.3%; RI + TA: 78.1% (NS for all comparisons). The combination of RI + RO was superior to RI and to RI + TA in regard of the absense of nausea and photophobia at 4 hours. Recurrence (after being pain-free at 2 h) was observed in 50% of patients treated with RI, in 15,4% of those treated with RI + RO, and in 7,7% of those treated with RI + TA.
Despite the methodological limitations of this study, the combination of RI and RO revealed a higher response rate at 2 hours. Recurrence was also clearly decreased with both combinations in relation to the use of RI alone. Controlled studies are necessary to provide additional evidence.