Worldwide, approximately 1 to 2% of the adult population suffers from chronic headache due to overuse of pain medication. Guidelines recommend acute withdrawal of medication, but the optimal treatment remains unknown. We aimed to evaluate the benefit of treatments for patients with medication overuse headache (MOH). We performed an extensive literature search until November 2015, selecting randomized controlled trials that evaluated interventions for adults with MOH. Two authors assessed the eligible trials and extracted data. We calculated effect estimates and used the random effects model for the pooled analysis. Our primary outcome measures were 'headache days' and 'days with medication.' Outcome data were categorized as short-term (up to 12 weeks) or long-term (≥12 weeks) outcomes. This review consists of 16 trials including 1,105 patients. Four trials evaluated the use of prednisone with placebo or celecoxib after medication withdrawal; 7 trials evaluated various methods of withdrawal versus other methods of withdrawal, and 5 trials evaluated prophylactic medication compared with placebo or ibuprofen. We found no significant differences in headache days between prednisone versus placebo or between outpatient versus inpatient treatment, but we found a significant difference in days with medication. Overall, we found no benefit of prophylactic medication versus placebo. We found low to very low quality of evidence of no benefit of prednisone, prophylaxis, and various withdrawal interventions. Because the burden of MOH for patients is enormous, larger and high-quality intervention trials are needed. Perspective: This article presents a critical look at studies of patients with MOHs. It appears that the withdrawal strategy remains the best treatment option, although there is scant evidence on the efficacy of any treatment options.

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The Journal of Pain
Department of General Practice

de Goffau, M.J. (Maaike J.), Klaver, A.R.E. (Andre R.E.), Willemsen, M., Bindels, P., & Verhagen, A. (2016). The Effectiveness of Treatments for Patients With Medication Overuse Headache; a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Pain. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2016.12.005