Examining the Utility of In-Clinic “Rescue” Therapy for Acute Migraine

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Management options currently are limited for patients with acute migraine whose symptoms prove refractory to self-administered therapy.


To evaluate the clinical utility and cost-effectiveness of a management program offering in-clinic “rescue” treatment for patients with acute migraine.


Two hundred consecutive migraine patients presenting to a university-based headache clinic were randomized to receive either optimal self-administered medical therapy for acute migraine (“standard therapy”) or similar therapy plus the option of in-clinic parenteral drug administration should self-administered therapy prove ineffective (“rescue therapy”). Patients randomized to the latter group were restricted to a maximum of 2 “rescue visits” per month, and all patients were followed for one year. Patients “rescued” in clinic were contacted by telephone 24 hours following treatment to evaluate their treatment response. The primary analysis involved a comparison of the number of emergency department (ED) visits for headache recorded within each group over the one-year period of study. For all ED visits in the rescue group and for a randomly selected and equal number of ED visits within the standard group, the direct costs associated with those visits were assessed, and the direct costs of all in-clinic rescue visits also were recorded and analyzed.


The 2 groups studied were similar in terms of age, gender ratio, migraine subtype, migraine-related disability status at baseline and type/extent of medical insurance coverage. Over the one-year study period, the rescue group recorded 423 in-clinic rescue visits and reported 27 ED visits for headache treatment. The standard therapy group reported 73 ED visits (27 vs 73 visits; P < .01). The total direct costs associated with ED visits were $45,330 for the rescue group (mean $1690 per ED visit) and (by extrapolation from the sample selected) $147,971 for the standard therapy group (mean $2027 per ED visit). The total direct cost of the 423 “rescue visits” was $33,647 (mean $80 per visit). In 79% of the 423 rescue encounters, the patients involved reported no residual functional disability 24 hours following treatment. Of those in the rescue group who sought in-clinic rescue, 89% reported themselves “very satisfied” with such management.


Providing the alternative of in-clinic “rescue” for acute migraine refractory to self-administered therapy offers an attractive alternative for patients and appears to substantially lower use of an ED for headache treatment and the cost associated with that use.

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