Gabapentin or pregabalin for preventing migraine attacks in adults

Various medicines, collectively termed 'antiepileptics', are used to treat epilepsy. For several years, some of these drugs have also been used for preventing migraine attacks. For the present review, researchers in The Cochrane Collaboration reviewed the evidence about the effects of gabapentin and two related drugs (pregabalin and gabapentin enacarbil) in adult patients (≥ 16 years of age) with 'episodic' migraine (headache on < 15 days per month). They examined research published up to 15 January 2013, along with three unpublished and previously confidential drug company research reports, and found six relevant studies, five of gabapentin and one of gabapentin enacarbil, both over a wide dose range. The studies showed that neither gabapentin nor gabapentin enacarbil was more effective than placebo at reducing the frequency of migraine headaches. Gabapentin commonly caused side effects, especially dizziness and somnolence (sleepiness). No studies of pregabalin were identified, and research on this drug is desirable.

Authors' conclusions: 

The pooled evidence derived from trials of gabapentin suggests that it is not efficacious for the prophylaxis of episodic migraine in adults. Since adverse events were common among the gabapentin-treated patients, it is advocated that gabapentin should not be used in routine clinical practice. Gabapentin enacarbil is not efficacious for the prophylaxis of episodic migraine in adults. There is no published evidence from controlled trials of pregabalin for the prophylaxis of episodic migraine in adults.

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Background: 

Some antiepileptic drugs but not others are useful in clinical practice for the prophylaxis of migraine. This might be explained by the variety of actions of these drugs in the central nervous system. The present review is part of an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2004, and previously updated (conclusions not changed) in 2007.

Objectives: 

To describe and assess the evidence from controlled trials on the efficacy and tolerability of gabapentin/gabapentin enacarbil or pregabalin for preventing migraine attacks in adult patients with episodic migraine.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 12), PubMed/MEDLINE (1966 to 15 January 2013), MEDLINE In-Process (current week, 15 January 2013), and EMBASE (1974 to 15 January 2013) and handsearched Headache and Cephalalgia through January 2013.

Selection criteria: 

Studies were required to be prospective, controlled trials of gabapentin/gabapentin enacarbil or pregabalin taken regularly to prevent the occurrence of migraine attacks, to improve migraine-related quality of life, or both.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently selected studies and extracted data. For headache frequency data, we calculated mean differences (MDs) between gabapentin and comparator (placebo, active control, or gabapentin in a different dose) for individual studies and pooled these across studies. For dichotomous data on responders (patients with ≥ 50% reduction in headache frequency), we calculated odds ratios (ORs) and numbers needed to treat (NNTs). We also summarised data on adverse events from all single dosage studies and calculated risk differences (RDs) and numbers needed to harm (NNHs).

Main results: 

Five trials on gabapentin and one trial on its prodrug gabapentin enacarbil met the inclusion criteria; no reports on pregabalin were identified. In total, data from 1009 patients were considered. One trial each of gabapentin 900 mg (53 patients), and gabapentin titrated to 1200 mg (63 patients) and 1800 mg (122 patients) failed to show a statistically significant reduction in headache frequency in the active treatment group as compared to the placebo group, whereas one trial of gabapentin titrated to 1800 to 2400 mg (113 patients) demonstrated a small but statistically significant superiority of active treatment for this outcome (MD -0.80; 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.55 to -0.05). The pooled results of these four studies (MD -0.44; 95% CI -1.43 to 0.56; 351 patients) do not demonstrate a significant difference between gabapentin and placebo. One trial of gabapentin titrated to 1800 mg (122 patients) failed to demonstrate a significant difference between active treatment and placebo in the proportion of responders (OR 0.97; 95% CI 0.45 to 2.11), whereas one trial of gabapentin titrated to 1800 to 2400 mg (113 patients) demonstrated a small but statistically significant superiority of active treatment for this outcome (OR 2.79; 95% CI 1.09 to 7.17). The pooled results of these two studies (OR 1.59; 95% CI 0.57 to 4.46; 235 patients) do not demonstrate a significant difference between gabapentin and placebo. Comparisons from one study (135 patients) suggest that gabapentin 2000 mg is no more effective than gabapentin 1200 mg. One trial of gabapentin enacarbil (523 participants) failed to demonstrate a significant difference versus placebo or between doses for gabapentin enacarbil titrated to between 1200 mg and 3000 mg with regard to proportion of responders; there was also no evidence of a dose-response trend. Adverse events, most notably dizziness and somnolence, were common with gabapentin.

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