Polypill Prevents Headaches

More than 1 in 10 people suffer from periodic headaches including migraine. A survey of Polypill participants conducted in October 2020 showed that taking the Polypill prevents headaches in about one third of people who suffer from headaches.

Our survey

We have recently shown a statistically significant reduction in headaches after starting the polypill preventive medication. The following question was sent to participants in the Polypill Prevention Programme:

We would be grateful if you would answer one question relating to your experience of headaches before and after taking the Polypill medication. While on the Polypill regime has the frequency of headaches (including migraine):

The responses were as follows.

Has the frequency of headaches: Number of replies
Increased? 1
Decreased? 14
Remained about the same? 24
Not relevant because I do not get headaches 54

Analysis

The result is highly statistically significant, meaning that it is most unlikely to be due to chance. 15 participants reported that the frequency of headaches had changed: in 14 participants it had decreased and in one it had increased (p < 0.005). If the Polypill regime had had no effect on headaches the split would have been about even i.e. 7 v 8 or 8 v 7.

The results show that a little over one third of people (15/39) who have periodic headaches will benefit by having no further headaches or a decrease in their frequency on the Polypill - a practical immediate benefit in addition to the long term prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

Quotes from two participants in the survey:


"My migraine-like headaches decreased markedly after I started taking the polypill."

and

"I have been on the polypill programme for two and a half years and haven’t had a migraine since taking the first set of pills. I would normally have a migraine every four to six weeks."


Previous work

The reduction in the prevalence of headaches arises from the effect of the blood pressure medicines in the Polypill; there is no evidence that the statin contributes to the effect. The survey results are remarkably consistent with the expected findings based on randomised placebo-controlled trials of blood pressure lowering drugs reported in the journal Circulation in 2005: Law, M., Morris, J.K., Jordan, R. and Wald, N. Headaches and the treatment of blood pressure: results from a meta-analysis of 94 randomized placebo-controlled trials with 24 000 participants Circulation 2005;112(15):2301-2306

Other studies include:

  1. Law MR, Morris JK, Wald NJ. Calcium channel blockers and headache. British journal of clinical pharmacology. 2007 Feb;63(2):157.
  2. Webb AJ, Rothwell PM. The effect of antihypertensive treatment on headache and blood pressure variability in randomized controlled trials: a systematic review. Journal of neurology. 2012 Sep;259:1781-7.
  3. Carcel C, Haghdoost F, Shen J, Nanda P, Bai Y, Atkins E, Torii-Yoshimura T, Clough AJ, Davies L, Cordato D, Griffiths LR. The effect of blood pressure lowering medications on the prevention of episodic migraine: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cephalalgia. 2023 Jun;43(6):03331024231183166.