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Ann Emerg Med. 1987 Mar;16(3):308-13.

The effectiveness of nalbuphine and hydroxyzine for the emergency treatment of severe headache.


The present treatment for acute attacks of headache is empiric. Intramuscular nalbuphine (Nubain) and hydroxyzine (Vistaril) were assessed for pain relief in a prospective, double-blind clinical trial. Ninety-four patients were assigned randomly to treatment groups receiving nalbuphine 10 mg, nalbuphine 10 mg plus hydroxyzine 50 mg, hydroxyzine 50 mg, or placebo. The treatment groups were found to be adequately homogenous with regard to age, sex, type and duration of headaches, and history of prior narcotic use. All data were analyzed by one-way analysis of variance. Patients who had headaches diagnosed as other than classic migraine had significantly greater pain relief with nalbuphine compared to placebo (P less than .01). The combination of nalbuphine and hydroxyzine was not significantly more effective than other treatment groups. In 20 patients with classic migraine, none of the treatment regimens significantly outperformed placebo. There were no clinically significant adverse effects attributed to the study drugs. These findings are similar to others that showed a lack of efficacy of kappa receptor agonists in classic migraineurs. Nalbuphine appears to be clinically useful in other types of severe headache. This study does not support the routine addition of hydroxyzine for presumed synergistic effect.

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