Efficacy of nonprescription doses of ibuprofen for treating migraine headache. a randomized controlled trial

Headache. Jul-Aug 2001;41(7):665-79. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.2001.041007665.x.


Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of ibuprofen, 200 mg and 400 mg, compared with placebo and each other for the treatment of pain of migraine headache.

Background: Migraine headache is a common illness with significant social and economic impact.

Design: Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of 6 hours' treatment duration.

Methods: Fifteen investigators at 17 private practice and referral centers in the United States participated in this study of 660 outpatient adults aged 18 to 84 years with migraine headache of moderate to severe intensity. Each patient was randomly assigned to a single dose of study medication: ibuprofen 200 mg (n = 216) or 400 mg (n = 223), or placebo (n = 221). The percentage of patients with a reduction in baseline headache intensity from severe or moderate to mild or none 2 hours after treatment and the headache pain intensity difference from baseline at 2 hours were the primary efficacy measures. Secondary outcomes included other measures of pain relief, severity differences from baseline for migraine-associated symptoms of nausea, photophobia, phonophobia, and functional disability, and percentage of patients with migraine-associated symptoms reduced to none.

Results: Significantly (P < or = .006) more patients treated with ibuprofen, 200 mg or 400 mg, reported mild to no pain after 2 hours (41.7% and 40.8%, respectively), compared with those treated with placebo (28.1%). The mean pain intensity difference from baseline measured at 2 hours was significantly (P < or = .001) greater for patients treated with ibuprofen 200 mg or 400 mg (0.68 and 0.65, respectively), compared with those treated with placebo (0.39). Statistically significant differences in favor of both doses of ibuprofen over placebo were observed for mean pain intensity difference at 1 hour after treatment. In patients with severe baseline pain intensity, ibuprofen, 400 mg, was significantly (P < or = .048) superior to placebo for the primary efficacy end points, while ibuprofen, 200 mg, was not. Ibuprofen, 200 mg and 400 mg, were statistically significantly more effective than placebo for all clinically important secondary pain relief outcomes. Mean severity changes of migraine-associated symptoms of nausea, photophobia, phonophobia, and functional disability at 2 and 6 hours were significantly (P < or = .03) in favor of both doses of ibuprofen over placebo, and results for the percentage of patients with symptoms reduced to none consistently, although less often statistically significant, favored ibuprofen. No statistically significant differences in adverse events were found among treatment groups.

Conclusions: Ibuprofen at doses of 200 mg and 400 mg is an efficacious, cost-effective, well-tolerated, single-ingredient nonprescription treatment for pain of migraine headache. In addition, while not always statistically significant, ibuprofen provided a beneficial effect on associated symptoms of migraine including nausea, photophobia, phonophobia, and functional disability.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / administration & dosage*
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Ibuprofen