Drug for cluster headaches may cause heart problems

Aug 13, 2007

A drug increasingly used to prevent cluster headaches can cause heart problems, according to a study published in the August 14, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Those taking the drug verapamil for cluster headaches should be closely monitored with frequent electrocardiograms (EKGs) for potential development of irregular heartbeats.

Cluster headache is a rare, severe form of headache that is more common in men. The attacks usually occur in cyclical patterns, with frequent attacks over weeks or months generally followed by a period of remission when the headaches stop.

“The benefit of taking verapamil to alleviate the devastating pain of cluster headaches has to be balanced against the risk of causing a heart abnormality that could progress into a more serious problem,” said study author Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD, DSc, of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square, London, UK, and the University of California, San Francisco and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved 108 people with an average age of 44. The participants started taking verapamil and then had an EKG and an increase in the dosage of the drug every two weeks until the headaches were stopped or they started having side effects.

A total of 21 patients, or 19 percent, had problems with the electrical activity of the heart, or irregular heartbeats, while taking the drug. Most of the cases were not considered serious; however, one person required a permanent pacemaker due to the problem. A total of 37 percent of the participants had slower than normal heart rates while on the drug, but the condition was severe enough to warrant stopping the use of the drug in only four cases.

Goadsby noted that 217 people taking the drug were initially supposed to take part in the study, but 42 percent of them did not have the EKGs done to monitor their heart activity. “Many of them said either they or their local services were reluctant to undertake such frequent tests, or they were not aware of the need for the heart monitoring,” he said. “Since this drug is relatively new for use in cluster headaches, it’s possible that some health care providers are not aware of the problems that can come with its use.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Explore further: Bangladesh jails three over drug scam that killed hundreds of children (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pfizer says patient died in oral RA drug study

Apr 22, 2011

(AP) -- Pfizer Inc. confirmed that one patient who was taking its drug candidate tofacitinib, a pill designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, died during a recent clinical trial and said the death was connected to the drug.

Mini-stroke doubles risk of heart attack

Mar 24, 2011

Patients who have suffered a "mini stroke" are at twice the risk of heart attack than the general population, according to research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Recommended for you

Supermaterial gives rejected drugs a new chance

Jul 22, 2014

More than 80 percent of all drug candidates in the pharma R&D suffer from poor solubility and are therefore rejected early in the drug discovery process. Now Uppsala University researchers show that the new ...

Risk of antibiotic overuse in aged care settings

Jul 21, 2014

Antibiotics are being overused in residential aged care facilities (RACFs), and more integrated efforts to improve antibiotic prescribing practices need to be introduced, researchers say. 

Ruconest approved for rare genetic disease

Jul 17, 2014

(HealthDay)—Ruconest has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat hereditary angioedema, a genetic disease that leads to sudden and potentially fatal swelling of the hands, feet, limbs, face, intestinal ...

NIH system to monitor emerging drug trends

Jul 17, 2014

An innovative National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) is being developed to monitor emerging trends that will help health experts respond quickly to potential outbreaks of illicit drugs such as heroin and to identify increased ...

User comments : 0