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Women's Health: Migraines take one-two pounding with combination treatment

Pill containing two drugs is better at maintaining pain relief than either medication alone

Two drugs are better than one when it comes to relieving the pain of migraine headaches, according to researchers who are testing a new combination pill.

Migraines, which are headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light or sound, occur more often in women than men. Some people also experience visual warning signs of an impending migraine, such as flashing lights. These symptoms are called an “aura.”

The experimental migraine pill contains two medications that are already available: sumatriptan, which narrows swollen blood vessels in the brain, and naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug.

In two recent studies funded by drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline and Pozen Inc., about 3,000 people suffering from migraines with aura were randomly assigned to take sumatriptan, naproxen, the combination pill, or an inactive placebo pill. Both studies found the sumatriptan/naproxen pill significantly more effective than placebo at relieving headache pain and sensitivity to light and sound within two hours. In addition, the combination pill was more effective than either medication alone at sustaining pain relief from two to 24 hours.

The lead author of the studies, Dr. Jan Lewis Brandes of the Nashville Neurosciences Group in Tennessee, says the combination pill may be better at sustained pain relief because it is effective in both the early and later stages of a migraine attack. And side-effects for the combination pill were similar to those observed for the individual drugs.

Brandes says many people already use two medications to combat migraines, especially people who experience severe attacks.