Media releases

July 29, 2001

Pain relief - key feature of new Cochrane information

  • New migraine drugs may provide relief within two hours and remain effective up to 24 hours.
  • Vitamin B1 and magnesium show promise in relieving painful periods.
  • The use of multifocal lenses in cataract surgery may lessen dependence on glasses.
  • While the inhaled steroid, Fluticasone, used for controlling asthma has been found to be highly effective - even in low doses - there is no evidence that antibiotics help.
These were some of the stand-out findings to emerge from the latest quarterly update of the Cochrane Consumer Network databank of global medical research. The update occurred today.

Australia's largest health fund, Medibank Private, has a direct web hyper link with the Cochrane Consumer Network.

A not-for-profit organisation devoted to providing consumers and health practitioners with the latest in medical research, the Cochrane Consumer Network is the consumer arm of the highly regarded international research body known as the Cochrane Collaboration.

The Network provides the general public with access to "consumerised" evidence-based information on a wide range of medical conditions as well as the latest on medicines, drugs, surgery, alternate therapies and lifestyle and dietary changes, to mention but a few.

Since the establishment of a link between the two websites in May, the number of people visiting the Medibank Private website has risen dramatically and currently stands at 2,000 visits a day.

Pain relief is a key feature of the new additions to the Cochrane Consumer Network website with relief for migraines and period pain coming under the spotlight.

The latest published medical research from Cochrane shows that migraine drugs, Eletriptan and Rizatriptan, take effect within two hours, with relief up to 24 hours. These drugs are not yet available in Australia.

According to Cochrane Consumer Network international convenor, Hilda Bastian, these drugs offered hope to those who had run out of options where pain management was concerned.

"About half the people who get migraines have not sought medical help, relying on what they can get over the counter at chemists. Many just suffer," she says.

Research shows that as many as 18 per cent of women and 6 per cent of men get migraine headaches that can last up to 48 hours.

Ms Bastian said that while neither eletriptan or rizatriptan were yet available in Australia, other drugs from the triptan "family" of drugs are available and people can ask their doctors about these. These are naratriptan (trade name naramig), sumatriptan (imigran) and zolmitriptan (somig).

"However, as yet there are no reviews on these drugs and they can be expensive," says Ms Bastian.

Encouraging news for women who suffer period pains (dysmenorrhea), the latest Cochrane reviews show that Vitamin B1 daily and magnesium appear to be helpful where pain relief is concerned.

"Over 50 per cent of women have really painful periods and of these, over 10 per cent are quite disabled by it every month," says Ms Bastian.

"Cochrane research shows that medical treatments for period pain have a failure rate of about 20-25 per cent, with surgery often the last resort. Vitamin B1 and magnesium could well be the answer for many women, especially if they would like to avoid drugs."

For the some 30 per cent of people who have cataracts by the age of 65, the latest research from Cochrane indicates that multifocal lenses improve near vision without problems with distance vision.

Says Ms Bastian: "Until recently, the lenses which have been inserted after cataract removal have usually routinely been monofocal lenses. Because these have a fixed focal length, what this has meant is that most people need both reading and distance glasses.

"The latest Cochrane research shows that multifocal lenses improve near vision without major problems with distance vision, so dependence on glasses is much less likely.

"Unfortunately, however, there are trade-offs such as the small loss of best-corrected acuity, contrast sensitivity and haloes."

According to Ms Bastian, while there are many websites with an abundance of health and medical information, none can claim to have been as well researched, as rigorously tested and as up to date as Cochrane.

Medibank Private managing director, Mark Burrowes, says being privy to evidence-based health information provides health consumers with useful information to assist in their making more informed decisions about their health.

"Being better informed will assist patients ask pertinent questions and discuss the most relevant issues with their doctors," he says.

However, Mr Burrowes cautions that its intention is not to interfere with the role of doctors as primary health information providers.

"Ultimately, there is no real substitute for your own doctor's medical advice," he says.

* Disclaimer. This information is not intended to replace advice from a health professional. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily shared by Medibank Private or the Cochrane Consumer Network. No claim is made as to, or responsibility or liability taken for, the suitability, completeness accuracy or authenticity of this information. It is your responsibility to access the accuracy and relevance of the information provided.

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