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High-doses Aspirin relieves headache, migraine effectively

A new study published in the Sept 21, 2010 issue of Neurology says that high doses of aspirin can be used to treat severe headache and migraine caused by drug withdrawal.
The study showed the patients admitted to a hospital for severe headache and migraine caused by drug overdose experienced a 30 percent pain reduction, 25 percent of the time. after receiving the drug through an IV. Patients reported a more modest pain reduction for another 40 percent of the time during the treatment.
Aspirin is nontoxic, non-addictive, non-sedating, and cheap compared to drug regiments such as triptans, which are typically prescribed to patients who experience severe pain, according to a press release by the University of California San Francisco.
The finding suggests that aspirin in mega doses is effective in treating severe pain such as headache and migraine induced by drug withdrawal, which can be hard to manage.
"These results tell migraine sufferers, their doctors and insurance providers that high-dose intravenous aspirin is a beneficial way to treat difficult withdrawal headaches via a medicine that is not addictive or toxic," said Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD, lead author of the study, professor and director of the UCSF Headache Center. 
"We hope to make this inexpensive therapy more available to patients seeking treatment for severe pain."
An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from migraine, according to the American Academy of Neurology. The condition causes the loss of 157 million lost workdays and incurs the loss of $13 billion due to the treatment each year.
The UCSF press release says that the cost for IV aspirin can cost as low as $7 per dose, compared to $22 per pill for triptans.
The study involved 168 patients aged 18 to 75. For treatment, participants were given one gram of aspirin per dose - the dose equivalent to three times the dose for typical pain relief, through an IV and an average five doses per treatment.
For the study, the researchers examined nurses' notes and patients' hourly diaries to measure the safety and effectiveness of the high-dose intravenous aspirin.  Patients reported hourly their pain on a 10-point scale. Scores of 1 to 3 were defined as a mild headache, 4-7 a moderate headache and 8 to 10 a severe headache.
The researchers found that the high dose aspirin treatment essentially downgraded the pain patients experienced from severe to moderate, from moderate to mild and from mild to no pain.
Side effects were mild, including nausea and vomiting and pain from the IV insertion. Other potential side effects of aspirin include heartburn, nausea, bleeding, worsening of asthma, rash and kidney impairment, according to the UCSF press release.
"It is important to acknowledge that a placebo was not used in this case because participants knew they were receiving aspirin therapy," Goadsby said.  "However, a number of previous placebo-controlled trials have shown intravenous aspirin to be effective for migraine."

David Liu and editing by Rachel Stockton