Medical Review by Cynthia Armand, MD

Approximately 1 billion people worldwide experience debilitating Migraine attacks that can come on as quickly as a snap of a finger. This unpredictable “monster” has the ability to take over your entire day if you are not prepared with the right tools for relief. Imitrex is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for stopping a Migraine attack, and it is considered to be the “gold standard” medication.

If you’ve been dealing with Migraine for awhile, it’s likely that you have tried or considered trying Imitrex or the generic version, sumatriptan. You may even have tried it years ago and are considering trying it again. During different stages in your life, different medications can have different efficacy. Just because a medication does not work at one stage, does not mean it may not give you relief in a new stage of your life.

5 Questions to Ask About Imitrex

Most of these medications have different routes of administration, too, so if Imitrex tablets don’t give you relief, another route may just do the trick. It’s important to keep an open mind and ask a few key questions:

Am I ready for a prescription Migraine medication?

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), acetaminophen (TYLENOL), aspirin (Bayer) and combination analgesics with caffeine (Excedrin) are inexpensive options if they work and provide relief. If over-the-counter pain relievers do not work and your Migraine attacks are moderate to severe, prescription triptans could be for you. Triptans are a good option for those Migraine attacks that disrupt daily activity and can alleviate symptoms that OTC cannot touch. Since their development, triptans are the most common class of drug used to stop Migraine attacks.

Do I need an abortive or a preventative?

Imitrex is the brand name for sumatriptan, the first Migraine-specific medication approved in the 1990’s 1. It is not a preventative, but rather an abortive medication that should be taken at first sign of a Migraine attack. Most patients’ Migraine attacks subside within two hours of taking Imitrex.

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Most people with Migraine can benefit from a prescription abortive medication like Imitrex. If you have fewer than 15 headache days a month, or episodic Migraine, an abortive may be the only prescription medication you need to manage your Migraine disease. Preventative medications should be considered along with abortives for those with Chronic Migraine, or 15 or more headache days a month.

What symptoms are my most troublesome and will Imitrex help them?

Triptans can help alleviate many symptoms of an attack including head pain, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light.

Essentially, triptans like Imitrex work by reversing the changes in your brain that lead to a Migraine. Triptans act as agonists for serotonin receptors at blood vessels and nerve endings in the brain. Whether you get a severe morning Migraine, a sickening Migraine with nausea, or a hormonal Migraine, Imitrex in its 3 different dosing treatments is there to provide relief. It is important to note that Imitrex may provide different benefits and side effects for different patients and all of this course, under your doctor’s care.

What is the best delivery method of Imitrex for the type of attacks I get?

The generic sumatriptan is available in several forms: tablets, nasal sprays, injections, pen injections and as a needleless injection that uses a burst of gas to get the drug under the skin. Many people experience nausea and vomiting with their Migraine attacks, making it difficult to keep tablet medication down long enough to work. The injections and nasal sprays bypass the digestive system and get into the bloodstream to start working fast.

Do I need brand name Imitrex or can I get a generic?

Generic drugs including generic Imitrex (sumatriptan) are not exactly the same as the original branded drug in the 90’s, although they are similar and commonly viewed as effective as their branded counterpart. Generic forms of Imitrex are widely used in the United States. Imitrex is a market leader in a class of triptans that are commonly used to treat migraines.

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Generic triptans are becoming available every day. For example, Relpax now has its own generic form, Eletriptan. As a Migraine patient, it is wise to vary medication and to be aware of medication overuse. Medication overuse happens when the same medicine you use to treat your headaches or Migraine attacks actually makes things worse. Medication overuse headache is a separate headache diagnosis that is characterized by the use of one medication for 10-15 or more days per month 2. It is a vicious cycle to be caught up in and it happens pretty often.


Don’t miss Dr. Richard Lipton discuss Triptans and Medication Overuse on the Migraine World Summit – Watch here


Be Prepared. Imitrex should not be the only tool in your arsenal. Migraine requires a detailed management plan, including prevention, a balanced lifestyle, pain relief coping mechanisms, and self-care.

You are your own advocate. Be curious. Get involved in online support communities and trusted Migraine websites so you know what questions to ask when you visit your doctor and pharmacist. If you have not tried Imitrex or the generic sumitriptan since the 90’s it may be time to have an open discussion with your doctor about new delivery methods and which one is right for you.

Comments? Does Imitrex help abort your Migraine attacks?

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