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Papers of the Week

Papers: 1 Feb 2020 - 7 Feb 2020

Pharmacology/Drug Development


2020 02

CNS Drugs



Pharmacotherapy for Cluster Headache.


Brandt RB, Doesborg PGG, Haan J, Ferrari MD, Fronczek R
CNS Drugs. 2020 02; 34(2):171-184.
PMID: 31997136.


Cluster headache is characterised by attacks of excruciating unilateral headache or facial pain lasting 15 min to 3 h and is seen as one of the most intense forms of pain. Cluster headache attacks are accompanied by ipsilateral autonomic symptoms such as ptosis, miosis, redness or flushing of the face, nasal congestion, rhinorrhoea, peri-orbital swelling and/or restlessness or agitation. Cluster headache treatment entails fast-acting abortive treatment, transitional treatment and preventive treatment. The primary goal of prophylactic and transitional treatment is to achieve attack freedom, although this is not always possible. Subcutaneous sumatriptan and high-flow oxygen are the most proven abortive treatments for cluster headache attacks, but other treatment options such as intranasal triptans may be effective. Verapamil and lithium are the preventive drugs of first choice and the most widely used in first-line preventive treatment. Given its possible cardiac side effects, electrocardiogram (ECG) is recommended before treating with verapamil. Liver and kidney functioning should be evaluated before and during treatment with lithium. If verapamil and lithium are ineffective, contraindicated or discontinued because of side effects, the second choice is topiramate. If all these drugs fail, other options with lower levels of evidence are available (e.g. melatonin, clomiphene, dihydroergotamine, pizotifen). However, since the evidence level is low, we also recommend considering one of several neuromodulatory options in patients with refractory chronic cluster headache. A new addition to the preventive treatment options in episodic cluster headache is galcanezumab, although the long-term effects remain unknown. Since effective preventive treatment can take several weeks to titrate, transitional treatment can be of great importance in the treatment of cluster headache. At present, greater occipital nerve injection is the most proven transitional treatment. Other options are high-dose prednisone or frovatriptan.