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Epilepsy drug may help treat migraines

A drug used to treat epilepsy may help treat migraines by cutting the number of days that people experience pain and reducing dependencies on pain relievers, a study reported Tuesday.
/ Source: Reuters

An anti-epilepsy drug that is now being tested for uses from alcoholism to weight loss can curtail the number of headaches experienced by migraine sufferers, a study said on Tuesday.

Topiramate, which is produced by Johnson & Johnson under the name Topamax, not only cut the number of days that migraine sufferers developed debilitating headaches but also reduced their reliance on pain relievers such as aspirin.

The study, which was funded by the drug maker, found daily dosages of 100 to 200 milligrams of topiramate reduced the frequency of migraine headaches by 2.1 to 2.4 days per month.

“Topiramate showed statistically significant efficacy in migraine prevention within the first month of treatment” and continued to work through the six-month study, wrote study author Jan Lewis Brandes of the Nashville Neuroscience Group in Nashville, Tennessee.

Roughly 11 percent of Americans suffer migraines, and researchers have been unable to define a cause or find a cure.

Unwanted side effects
However, Topamax has previously been found to produce unwanted side effects, some of which were experienced by participants in the latest study that caused a few of them to drop out. The side effects listed were paresthesia, a tingling or pricking sensation of the skin; fatigue; weight loss; diarrhea; nausea and difficulty with memory.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Brandes concluded, “Topiramate appeared to be safe and had an acceptable tolerability profile.”

Another study published last year in the British medical journal The Lancet found topiramate, which was approved for use against epilepsy in 1996, dramatically reduced alcoholics’ craving for a drink.

The drug may inhibit the alcohol-induced release of dopamine in the brain, the researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio said in The Lancet study. Dopamine is believed to be associated with many types of addictive behaviors.

Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho-McNeil pharmaceutical arm has filed an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking to use it for the prevention of migraines.

In December the company was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Boston about its marketing and sales practices regarding Topamax.

Earlier last year, the company was ordered by the FDA to add a warning to the drug’s label of hyperthermia and oligohidrosis, a condition marked by decreased sweating.

The drug is also being tested for other indications, including weight loss.