Butterbur (Petasites) for Migraine Headaches – Risks & Benefit Update

July 22nd, 2016

Butterbur for Migraines Risks vs. BenefitsIf you’re a Healthcare Professional recommending Butterbur (Petasites) to your patients, it’s important that you stay up-to-date on the latest information (see links at the end of this post).

As a chemist, medical researcher, and drug developer, four of the multitudinous questions you ask yourself when trying to decide if you should invest time and money into developing, using or recommending a particular compound are:

1.) How likely is it to be effective for the specific condition it’s being considered to treat?
2.) Are there any known or potential side effects or adverse events that could hypothetically occur?
3.) How do the answers to question #2 impact the risk/reward profile of the compound.
4.) Are there any other competing compounds that seem to have similar benefits with lower risk?

Over 15 years ago when we received multiple patents describing the use of a combination of two magnesium sources, high dose riboflavin, and special extracts of feverfew for prophylaxis of migraines, butterbur had not yet been shown in a randomized clinical trial to be effective for migraine prophylaxis.  Of course back in 2002, when the study by Lipton et al was published showing efficacy, I paid a lot of attention to butterbur and strongly considered creating an additional formula or adding it to our existing patented combination (now known as Akeso’s MigreLief with Puracol™).  Since the release of our Original MigreLief with Puracol™ we have formulated new products with additional ingredients, for example MigreLief+M for menstrual/hormonal migraines and MigreLief-NOW a fast-acting “as needed” formula, yet none of our products contain butterbur.

It was clear that the response to butterbur was favorable and by not offering it in one of our products we would be losing out on the additional revenue it was sure to generate. Nevertheless we decided never to use butterbur in any of our products. We could never get comfortable with the fact that we had to rely on a manufacturing process to consistently remove the Hepato-toxic and carcinogenic pyrolizidine alkaloids that are found in unprocessed butterbur.   Of course this was just our company’s decision and many companies and healthcare professionals used or recommended butterbur.  In fact, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society supported butterbur.

As healthcare professionals we all try to stay current on as much of the medical literature and reporting as possible.
In the last few years, much new information has surfaced regarding butterbur and we are providing you with links to that third party information to enable you to make the best decisions for your patients (see below).

To the Best of Health,

Curt Hendrix
Chief Scientific Officer,  Akeso Health Sciences

 

RESOURCE LINKS FOR BUTTERBUR:

Update on the efficacy and safety of Petadolex®, a butterbur extract for migraine prophylaxis – Dr. Joseph M. Prietto.
DovePress March 10, 2014

Migrane Preventative Butterbur Has Safety Concerns
NEUROLOGY TIMES – JANUARY 28, 2015

“…Despite butterbur’s potential efficacy, doubts are increasing about the long-term safety of this supplement given the risk of liver damage and the lack of an actively regulated preparation. Due to the mounting concerns, the American Headache Society is currently evaluating a position statement cautioning against its use.” Migraine Preventative Butterbur Has Safety Concerns