Background: The effectiveness of caffeine as an adjuvant to ibuprofen has been documented in investigations of acute pain. Our objectives were to assess this agent in the treatment of tension-type headache and to establish clinical trial methods capable of assessing this agent in comparison with various tension headache treatments. Stopwatch technology was used for measurement techniques.
Methods: A randomized, double-blind, parallel, multicenter, single-dose, placebo- and active-controlled study included 301 subjects diagnosed with tension-type headache. Treatment groups included ibuprofen and caffeine, ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone, or placebo. Subjects measured onset of relief (both time to first perceptible relief and time to meaningful relief) after taking a single oral dose of their assigned medication. Pain intensity and pain relief were rated over a 6-hour study period. Overall evaluation was made on completion of all other ratings.
Results: Ibuprofen and caffeine administered together provided significantly greater analgesic activity than ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone, and placebo. Ibuprofen and caffeine administered together demonstrated significantly shorter times to meaningful improvement in headache relief than ibuprofen or placebo; significantly greater total analgesia than ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone, or placebo; and significantly greater peak relief than ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone, or placebo. Significantly more subjects obtained meaningful headache relief with ibuprofen and caffeine administered together than with ibuprofen alone or placebo. More patients reported complete headache relief with ibuprofen and caffeine administered together than with ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone, or placebo. Ibuprofen and caffeine administered together was rated significantly better by patients than either ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone, or placebo. No subjects ended participation in the study early because of adverse events.
Conclusions: Sensitive methods have been introduced to assess differences in analgesia among over-the-counter analgesic agents in relieving tension-type headache pain. A double-blind study with this method suggests that ibuprofen and caffeine administered together provides greater analgesic effectiveness than either component alone.