Prophylactic treatment of migraine by valproate
ABSTRACT Migraine is a common episodic headache disorder. A comprenhensive headache treatment plan includes acute attack treatment to releive pain and impairment and long-term preventive therapy to reduce attack frequency, severity and duration. Circumstances that might warrant preventive treatment include very frequent and severe migraine that interferes with the patient's daily routine, failure to acute treatment, special circumstances such as hemiplegic migraine or patient preference. The drug has to be started at a low dose and each treatment has to be given an adequate trial with avoiding interfering overused and contraindicated drugs. Co-morbidity has to be considered. Drugs that have documented high efficacy and mild to moderate adverse events include beta-blockers, amitiriptyline and valproates. Valproate has been shown to be an effective prophylactic teratment in migraine. Investigation of the mechanism of its antimigraine action is difficult due to the broad range of its biochemical effects and the complex nature of migraine pathophysiology. Valptoate increases brain GABA levels and may suppress migraine related events in the cortex, perivascular parasympathetics or trigeminal nucleus caudalis. There is experimental evidence that it suppresses neurogenic inflamation and directly attenuates nociceptive neurotransmission. In addiion, valproate reportedly alters levels of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters and exerts direct effects on neuronal membranes in vitro. Valproate's observed effects may ultimately result from a combination of actions at different loci.
Article: Epidemiology of headache.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Headache disorders constitute a public-health problem of enormous proportions, with an impact on both the individual sufferer and society. Epidemiological knowledge is required to quantitate the significance of these disorders. The effects on individuals can be assessed by examining prevalence, distribution, attack frequency and duration, and headache-related disability. The socio-economic burden includes both direct costs associated with health care utilization and costs associated with missed work due to sickness absence or reduced efficiency. The individual and socio-economic burden of headaches is substantial. Headache disorders deserve more attention, especially concerning strategies leading to adequate primary prevention, diagnosis and treatment.Cephalalgia 10/2001; 21(7):774-7. · 3.43 Impact Factor
Article: Migraine: diagnosis and management[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Migraine is the most common form of disabling primary headache and affects approximately 12% of studied Caucasian populations. Non-pharmacological management of migraine largely consists of lifestyle advice to help sufferers avoid situations in which attacks will be triggered. Preventive treatments for migraine should usually be considered on the basis of attack frequency, particularly its trend to change with time, and tractability to acute care. Acute care treatments for migraine can be divided into non-specific treatments (general analgesics, such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and treatments relatively specific to migraine (ergotamine and the triptans). The triptans − sumatriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, zolmitriptan, almotriptan, eletriptan and frovatriptan − are potent serotonin, 5-HT1B/1D, receptor agonists which represent a major advance in the treatment of acute migraine. Chronic daily headache in association with analgesic overuse is probably the major avoidable cause of headache disability in the developed world. (Intern Med J 2003; 33: 436−442)Internal Medicine Journal 08/2003; 33(9‐10):436 - 442. · 1.54 Impact Factor
Article: Migraine: preventive treatment.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Migraine is a common episodic headache disorder. A comprehensive headache treatment plan includes acute attack treatment to relieve pain and impairment and long-term preventive therapy to reduce attack frequency, severity, and duration. Circumstances that might warrant preventive treatment include: (i) migraine that significantly interferes with the patient's daily routine despite acute treatment; (ii) failure, contraindication to, or troublesome side-effects from acute medications; (iii) overuse of acute medications; (iv) special circumstances, such as hemiplegic migraine; (v) very frequent headaches (more than two a week); or (vi) patient preference. Start the drug at a low dose. Give each treatment an adequate trial. Avoid interfering, overused, and contraindicated drugs. Re-evaluate therapy. Be sure that a woman of childbearing potential is aware of any potential risks. Involve patients in their care to maximize compliance. Consider co-morbidity. Choose a drug based on its proven efficacy, the patient's preferences and headache profile, the drug's side-effects, and the presence or absence of coexisting or co-morbid disease. Drugs that have documented high efficacy and mild to moderate adverse events (AEs) include beta-blockers, amitriptyline, and divalproex. Drugs that have lower documented efficacy and mild to moderate AEs include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), calcium channel antagonists, gabapentin, topiramate, riboflavin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.Cephalalgia 10/2002; 22(7):491-512. · 3.43 Impact Factor
Series: Medicine and Biology Vol.10, No 3, 2003, pp. 106 - 110
PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MIGRAINE BY VALPROATE
Mirjana Spasić, Miroslava Živković, Stevo Lukić
Clinic of Neurology, Clinical centre, Faculty of Medicine, Niš, Serbia and Montenegro
Summary. Migraine is a common episodic headache disorder. A comprenhensive headache treatment plan includes
acute attack treatment to releive pain and impairment and long-term preventive therapy to reduce attack frequency,
severity and duration. Circumstances that might warrant preventive treatment include very frequent and severe
migraine that interferes with the patient's daily routine, failure to acute treatment, special circumstances such as
hemiplegic migraine or patient preference. The drug has to be started at a low dose and each treatment has to be
given an adequate trial with avoiding interfering overused and contraindicated drugs. Co-morbidity has to be
considered. Drugs that have documented high efficacy and mild to moderate adverse events include beta-blockers,
amitiriptyline and valproates.
Valproate has been shown to be an effective prophylactic teratment in migraine. Investigation of the mechanism of its
antimigraine action is difficult due to the broad range of its biochemical effects and the complex nature of migraine
pathophysiology. Valptoate increases brain GABA levels and may suppress migraine related events in the cortex,
perivascular parasympathetics or trigeminal nucleus caudalis. There is experimental evidence that it suppresses
neurogenic inflamation and directly attenuates nociceptive neurotransmission. In addiion, valproate reportedly alters
levels of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters and exerts direct effects on neuronal membranes in vitro.
Valproate's observed effects may ultimately result from a combination of actions at different loci.
Key words: Migraine, prophylaxis, valproate
Migraine is a common, chronic, neurovascular dis-
ease characterized by repeated attacks of severe head-
aches, in combination with neurological, gastrointestinal
and autonomous symptoms.
Yearly prevalence of migraine (patients with migraine
who had at least one attack during previous year) is 10-
12% for adults (18% for women and 6% for men) and 4%
for children, where there is no gender difference (1).
Classification system of International Headache So-
ciety (IHS) recognizes 6 types of migraine (Table 1)
with clearly defined diagnostic criteria (2).
Table 1. Migraine Classification
1.1 Migraine without aura
1.2 Migraine with aura
1.3 Childhood periodic syndromes
that are commonly precursors of migraine
1.4 Retinal migraine
1.5 Complications of migraine
1.6 Probable migraine
Pathophysiological basis of migraine is probably a
spontaneous, excessive activity and abnormal amplifi-
cation of nociceptive and other sensory pathways of
brainstem. The actual concept of migraine etiopatho-
genesis favors primary role of neuronal structures which
together with fibers for innervation of cranial arteries
make trigemonovascular system Relative lack of 5-hy-
droxitriptamine (5-HT) can be a direct etiological factor
and is connected with action mechanism of most of the
medicines. Current researches are mostly focused on the
significance of calcium- channel abnormality, and neu-
ropeptides (for example calcitonin gene-reliant peptide
CGRP) in migraine etiopathogenesis and point to possi-
ble future therapeutic goals (3).
Evolution of migraine attack or migraine cascade
develops in 9 stages: initiation, cortical events, vascular
and autonomous events, primary activation of afferent
fibers, release of vasoactive peptides, nociception
transmission through trigeminal nerve, nociception inte-
gration within trigeminal nucleus rostral nociception
projection and cortical pain integration.
Treatment plan for migraine
Treatment plan for migraine includes a combination
of several procedures: patient education, prevention of
attack by avoidance of triggers; use of non-pharmacol-
ogical therapy (relaxation methods, change of lifestyle);
acute treatment of attacks with purpose of pain termina-
tion or discontinuation of its advance; long-term pre-
vention with purpose of reduction of frequency, inten-
sity and length of the attacks; use of alternative methods
PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MIGRAINE BY VALPROATE 107
of treatment (acupuncture...) if necessary; and of course,
periodical evaluation and possible change of plan.
Pharmacological treatment of migraine can be acute
(abortive) and preventive (prophylactic).
Acute treatment should stop the attack and impede
its progress and possible appearance of neurological
changes. This treatment should not be applied more than
two or three times per week.
Preventive therapy is given continuously and in ab-
sence of headache as an attempt to reduce frequency
and intensity of anticipated headache attacks. Patients
with strong headaches and frequent attacks usually de-
mand both types of treatment (4).
Criteria for use of preventive therapy
If patient has frequent attacks (2 or more attacks per
month) with functional disability which lasts 3 or more
days, or has fewer attacks but functional disability is
pronounced and longer than 3 days; if present therapy is
contraindicated, failure or if side effects of acute treat-
ment are distinct; if there is a tendency towards drug
overuse in acute treatment; if migraine is complicated
by neurological damage and the risk of it becoming
permanent, these patients fall into category of those who
require preventive therapy.
This group also includes patients with attacks more
frequent than twice a week as well as those demonstrating
progression of frequency and having a risk of appearance
of rebound headache due to drug overuse, as well as pa-
tients whose individual choice is to have as least number
of attacks as possible or not to have attacks at all (5).
During pregnancy, criteria for introduction of pro-
phylactic therapy are somewhat stricter, but if a preg-
nant woman has severe and incapacitating attacks ac-
companied by nausea, vomiting and possible dehydra-
tion, than she is in a group of patients where prophylac-
tic therapy is needed (6).
There are several groups of medicines for prophy-
lactic therapy at our disposal (Table 2).
Table 2. Medicines in migraine prevention
valproate, gabapentin, topiramat*
TCA, SSRI, MAOI
β β β β-adrenergic blockers
propranolol, nadolol, metoprolol, atenolol, timolol
NSAIDs, riboflavin, magnesium, Botulinum toxin
* positive results but demand further clinical confirmation
SSRI-selective serotonine reception inhibitors;
MAOI- Monamine oxidase inhibitors;
NSAIDs-non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs
Principles of preventive therapy
When using preventive therapy, certain principles
should be obeyed:
1. Therapy should be started with a small dose and
gradually increased until therapeutic effect appears
or until a dose with intolerable side effects is
2. Every drug should be given in an adequately long
period ranging from 2 to 6 months, since therapeu-
tic efficiency is expected after 4 weeks and is pro-
gressively increased in the following three months.
3. It is important to avoid drug interaction, drug overuse
as well as contraindicated drugs. Special care is war-
ranted in use of possible overuse of analgesics, opi-
oids or ergot derivates
4. When headaches become well controlled, the dose
should be reduced or if possible, treatment should be
discontinued - principle of reevaluation of therapy.
5. Women in reproductive period should be ac-
quainted with the fact that there are potential risk
factors during pregnancy, which affect the choice
of drug having the least side effects for fetus. When
using valproate, women should be given folic acid.
6. It is important to strive towards maximal compliance
7. Before choice of medicine, co-morbidity should be
taken into consideration, above all cerebrovascular
insult, epilepsy, mitrale valvula prolapse, Reynaud's
syndrome, psychological disturbances such as
anxiousness, depression, manic states, panic state.
Pathophysiological effects of valproate
It is experimentally proven that during a migraine
attack there is a disturbance of GABA metabolism, as
well as a disturbance of balance of concentration of in-
hibitory (GABA) and excitatory neurotransmitters
(glutamate and aspartate) in plasma.
Valproate increases GABA level in brain synapto-
somes by stimulating enzyme synthesis (glutamate decar-
boxylase) and inhibition of degrading enzymes (GABA-
transaminase and succinil-semialdehyde dehydrogenase)
involved in GABA metabolism. Valproate also increase
conductivity of Ca2+ with effect of neuron hyperpolariza-
tion, reduce aspartate level in brain by inhibition of its
release, inhibit NMDA related transitory polarization in
pyramidal cells and reduce NMDA or quisqalate recep-
tors stimulated influx of Ca2+ into hippocampus cells.
Valproate effect is seen in the increase of the amount
of homovanillic acid, enkephalin in stratium, brainstem,
hypothalamus and cortex. A significant effect of val-
proate is the reduction of plasmatic extravasation In
Moskowitz model of neurogenic inflammation by inter-
action with GABAA receptors. Valproate interact with
central 5-HT system thereby reducing the effect of "in-
flammation" of serotonergic neurons of brainstem.
108M. Spasić, M. Živković, S. Lukić
Valproate in migraine cascade
Migraine cascade is a result of interaction of internal
and external factors with nervous system vulnerable and
sensitized by other factors. There are at least 9 stages in
pathophysiology of evolution of migraine attack which
appear successively or simultaneously (7).
The exact localization and nature of neurochemical
migraine event is still not completely known, although
prodroma in form of affective and vegetative symptoms
point to subcortical localization or to limbic system as a
place of migraine origin. It is not known by means of
what mechanism valproate achieves initiation suppres-
2. Cortical events
Aura as a distinct neurological symptom is associate
with cerebral cortex. It is caused by a slowly expanding
depression that is by a wave of cortex depolarization
expanding by rate of 2-6 mm per minute, during which
time neurons do not show spontaneous or evoked activ-
ity. It is caused by the action of excitatory amino acids,
H+ and K+ ions as well as by arachidonic acid metabo-
lites which activate nocioception fibers (8,9). Slowly
expanding depression is followed by slowly expanding
oligemy. Valproate mediate increase of GABA-ergic
neurotransmission as well as reduction of the level of
excitatory amino acids and suppression of NMDA me-
diated transitory depolarization and calcium influx can
lead to a discontinuation of initiated slowly expanding
depression or to a stopping of its facilitation (10,11).
3. Vascular and autonomous events
Meningeas and meningeal blood vessels are the most
important pain-producing structures of the head (12).
Blood vessels are densely innervated by nociceptive,
sympathic and parasympathic fibers. There are experi-
mental proofs confirming that valproate modifies me-
ningeal neurogenic inflammation.
4. Activation of primary afferent fibers
Regardless of initial trigger, in order for headache to
appear, activation of primary afferent fibers is needed.
Nociceptive fibers which innervate meningeal blood
vessels originate from the cells of trigeminal ganglion
and transfer impulses through trigeminal nerve (13). It
still hasn't been proven that valproate produce direct
modulation of the threshold of meningeal afferent acti-
Activation of trigreminal afferent neurons results in
the following two stages of migraine cascade.
5. Release of vasoactive neuropeptides
from activated sensory nerves ends
In animal models, levels of substance P, neurokinin
A, and calcitonin gene-reliant peptide (CGRP) in sagit-
tal sinus are increased after stimulation of trigeminal
system (14). In humans, during migraine attack, in-
creased value of CGRP have been registered in v. jugu-
laris interna (15).
These vasoactive neuropeptides lead to a processes
known as neurogenic inflammation (NI) which in nor-
mal circumstances has a protective role in prevention of
tissue damage. Components of this response are a) re-
lease of plasma and plasmatic proteins from small blood
vessels into surrounding tissue b)vasodilatation c) mas-
tocyte activation as a part of local cellular immune de-
fense system (16,17). Neurogenic inflammatory re-
sponse can be biologically useful, promoting toxin dilu-
tion or bacteria elimination. If neurogenic inflammatory
response is not initiated by a pathological process, the
phenomenon becomes maladaptive and can be associ-
ated with processes such as asthma (18), arthritis (19),
or headaches. When it appears in meningeas (or in other
tissues), neurogenic inflammatory response can increase
sensitivity of perivascular fibers, causing normally neg-
ligable stimuli to become extremely painful (20). Neu-
rogenic inflammation can also be a mechanism by means
of which migraine pain is amplified and lengthened
after initial migraine event.
Valproate in clinically relevant dose (3 mg/kg) re-
duces plasmatic extravasation in model of meningeal
neurogenic inflammation. In an animal model valproic
acid attenuates substance P induced plasmatic extrava-
6. Transmission through n.V.
Activated meningeal afferent fibers conduct noci-
ceptive information through trigeminal ganglion and
then to medullar trigeminal nuclear complex, especially
to its caudal subnuscleus. Although valproate in large
doses can affect transfer of action potential, there are no
clear profs that they block impulse transmission through
trigeminal afferent fibers.
7. Integration in caudal nucleus n.V.
Within caudal trigeminal nucleus, synapses of pri-
mary afferent fibers and nociceptive signals are modu-
lated by interneurons and descendent inhibitory sys-
tems. After activation, secondary neurons within caudal
nucleus n.V show momentary gene c-fos reaction,
measured by immunohistochemical techniques. Expres-
sion of c-fos is a well defined marker of functional con-
dition of neuron activity and has seen in lamina I and II
of spinal cord and in caudal nucleus after meningeal
nociceptive stimulation (22-24).
Valproate in doses of 10mg/kg reduce the number of
activated cells by 52%, selectively in laminas I and IIo
(25). Other potential mechanism of action is serotonin
modulation in caudal nucleus n.V. Substantia gelatinosa
of spinal cord (area analogous to superficial laminas of
caudal medullar nucleus n.V.) receives downward
serotonergic fibers from rostroventral medulla. These
fibers make direct contact with upward nociceptive neu-
rons of spinothalamic system (26). If valproate increase
serotonergic activity within caudal nucleus, as they do
PROPHYLACTIC TREATMENT OF MIGRAINE BY VALPROATE 109
in other regions of brain, its inhibitory effect on expres-
sion of c-fos can partly be consequence of serotonergic
8. Rostral projection of caudal part of the nucleus n.V.
From caudal trigeminal nucleus, rostral projections
go to more rostral parts of trigeminal complex, in pon-
tine parabrachial nucleuses and cerebelum as well as in
ventrobasal, latter and medial thalamus. From rostral
part of brainstem nociceptive information go to other
parts of the brain (for example limbic system) which are
thought to be involved in emotional and vegetative pain
responses. Our knowledge of valprate effects on noci-
ception in thalamus and other subcortical structures is
still not sufficient.
9. Reception of pain information
to somatosensory part of frontal cortex
Projections from ventrobasal thalamus go to somato-
sensory cortex which discriminates and localizes the
pain. Medial thalamus is projected in frontal cortex
which gives affective and motivational aspect of the
pain (28). Valproate effect concerning discriminative
and motivational aspect of the pain in cerebral cortex is
To summarize, all our understanding of valproate
mechanism in migraine is made difficult by broad range
of biochemical effects and complex nature of migraine
pathophysiology. Valproate increase GABA brain levels
and can inhibit migraine caused changes in cortex, peri-
vascular parasympathic network, or in caudal nucleus
n.V. Valproate reduces aspartate level and activity of
NMDA receptors which can stop cortical processes as-
sociated with aura or modulate nociceptive transmission
within caudal nucleus n.V. There are also experimental
proofs that they inhibit neurogenic inflammation and
thereby directly attenuate nociceptive neurotransmission.
Clinical experiences with valproate
in migraine prevention
In controlled researches of valproate prophylactic ef-
fect in migraine, their efficiency has been proven for a
dose of 800 mg (29), as well as for a dose of 1200 mg
(30), in respect of reduction of frequency and intensity
of migraine attacks.
In a multi-centered, double blind, placebo controlled
and dosage controlled study (31), 176 patients older
than 16 years were researched, with migraine with or
without aura , with at least two attacks per month during
the last 3 months, untreated or unsuccessfully treated in
two attempts the most. The dose was titrated for 4
weeks starting with 250 mg per day with an increase in
every 4 days by 250 mg divided in two daily doses. Ef-
ficiency variables were followed: frequency, intensity
and duration. The results of the study revealed that the
frequency of attacks was reduced by 50% at dose of
1000 mg/day while patient receiving 1500 mg/day did
not demonstrate significantly higher reduction of fre-
quency compared to the first group but they revealed a
greater number of side effects (drowsiness, gastrointes-
The results of this research caused official registration
of valproate, by USA FDA, for preventive treatment of
migraine. After this study, the ruling principle of the
treatment still remained: "start low, advance slow".
Later on, American Academy of Neurology in the
evidence based guidelines, classified valproate into the
group 1 (medications with proven high efficacy and
mild to moderate adverse events) of drugs for migraine
preventive therapy (32). Consequently, the American
Academy of Family Physician and the American Col-
lege of Physician recommend the valproate as the first-
line agent for the prevention of migraine headache (33).
Present studies have proven efficiency of valproate in
prophylactic therapy of patients with migraine by means
of which significant reduction of frequency and intensity
of attacks has been achieved. Recomendend daily dose of
divalproex sodium is from 500 mg to 1500 mg/d, and
sodium valproate from 800 to 1500 mg/d.
Gradual titration of the drug is the best way for
avoiding side effects. A recent trial of the extended-re-
lease formulation of divalproate demonstrate similar
efficacy to the short-acting drug, with seemingly im-
proved tolerability (34). It therefore seems advisable to
utilize the extended- release formulation, both to improve
tolerability and encourage adherence to therapy (35).
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PROFILAKTIČKI TRETMAN MIGRENE VALPROATIMA
Mirjana Spasić, Miroslava Živković, Stevo Lukić
Klinika za neurologiju, Klinički centar Niš
Kratak sadržaj: Migrena je epizodična glavobolja. Plan lečenja glavobolje uključuje akutni tretman sa ciljem prekidanja
bola i neurološke oštete i dugotrajni preventivni tretman sa ciljem smanjivanja učestalosti, jačine i trajanja bola.
Okolnosti koje zahtevaju preventivnu terapiju uključuju vrlo česte i snažne migrene koje remete pacijentove svakodnevne
aktivnosti, neuspešnost akutnog tretmana, specijalne okolnosti kao što je hemiplegična migrena ili je to želja pacijenta.
Lečenje treba započeti malom dozom, a svako lečenje treba da traje adekvatno dugo uz izbegavanje interakcija,
predoziranja i kontraindikovanih lekova. Treba razmotiti i komorbiditet. Među lekovima koji imaju dokazanu visoku
efikasnost a blage ili umerene sporedne efekte spadaju beta blokatori, amitriptilin i valproati.
Valproati su se pokazali kao efikasan lek u profilaktičnom tretmanu migrene. Istraživanje mehanizma njihovog
antimigrenskog dejstva je teško zbog širokog spektra njihove biohemijske aktivnosti i komplikovane patofiziologije
migrene. Valproati povećevaju nivo GABA i mogu suprimirati migrenske događaje u korteksu, perivaskularnoj
parasimpatičkoj mreži ili u kaudalnom jedru trigeminusa. Postoji eksperimentalni dokaz da suprimiraju neurogenu
inflamaciju i direktno slabe nociceptivnu neurotransmisiju. Takođe, valproati menjaju nivoe ekscitatornih i
inhibitornih neurotransmitera i pokazuju direktne efekte na membranu neurona in vitro. Efekti valproata rezultiraju iz
kombinacije aktivnosti na različitim mestima.
Ključne reči: Migrena, profilaktički tretman, valproati