Self-medication of regular headache: a community pharmacy-based survey

European Journal of Neurology, 04/18/2012

The study identified underdiagnosis of migraine, low use of migraine prophylaxis and triptans, and high prevalence of medication overuse amongst subjects seeking self–medication for regular headache. Community pharmacists have a strategic position in education and referral of these self–medicating headache patients.


  • Participants (n = 1205) completed (i) a questionnaire to assess current headache medication and previous physician diagnosis, (ii) the ID Migraine Screener (ID–M), and (iii) the Migraine Disability Assessment questionnaire.


  • Forty–four percentage of the study population (n = 528) did not have a physician diagnosis of their headache, and 225 of them (225/528, 42.6%) were found to be ID–M positive.
  • The most commonly used acute headache drugs were paracetamol (used by 62% of the study population), NSAIDs (39%), and combination analgesics (36%).
  • Only 12% of patients physician–diagnosed with migraine used prophylactic migraine medication, and 25% used triptans.
  • About 24% of the sample (n = 292) chronically overused acute medication, which was combination analgesic overuse (n = 166), simple analgesic overuse (n = 130), triptan overuse (n = 19), ergot overuse (n = 6), and opioid overuse (n = 5).
  • Only 14.5% was ever advised to limit intake frequency of acute headache treatments.

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