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Nose drops may ease migraines

Published Sep. 16, 2005

Nose drops provided long-lasting relief from migraine headaches for about a third of patients in a new study. But some migraine experts expressed skepticism about the treatment's long-term effectiveness.

Nineteen of 53 patients receiving nose drops of the topical anesthetic lidocaine got long-lasting relief, researchers report in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

An additional 10 patients got relief _ 50-percent pain reduction or more within 15 minutes _ but suffered relapses, usually within an hour.

Those who want further study of lidocaine as a therapy for migraines, which afflict millions of Americans, say it costs 5 cents a dose and can work fast. The drug is available by prescription.

"Headache relief begins in one to two minutes. That's the remarkable thing about lidocaine," said Dr. Morris Maizels, the study's lead researcher and a family practitioner at Kaiser-Permanente Woodland Hills Hospital in California.

The drug probably acts by numbing a large nerve in the upper nasal passage, he added.

One researcher not connected with the study said the effectiveness of lidocaine fades with repeated use. It is "a very unimpressive study that will make absolutely zero impact on the treatment of migraine," said Dr. Neil H. Raskin, a neurology professor at the University of California in San Francisco and past president of the American Association for the Treatment of Headache.

Dr. Joel R. Saper, director of the Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, said the study was flawed because patients were not prohibited from taking other drugs at home before participating.

Others agreed that the study was flawed but said further research is needed.