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Posted: September 13, 2005

Caregivers Have a Better Tool to Deal with Migraines

Headaches related to stress – and even migraine headaches – are not strangers to caregivers. Now, German scientists say migraines can be helped by a class of drugs called triptans.

With triptan drugs running a gamut of drugs within the class, the researchers report in the July/August edition of the journal Headache that if one triptan doesn’t successfully attack the migraine, it is quite possible that another one will.

Triptans are prescribed as the first line of defense for moderate-to-severe migraines that do not get better with regular painkillers. However, there are meaningful differences in both the effectiveness and side effects among the triptans, according to Dr. Hans-Christoph Diener, from University Essen, and his research colleagues.

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The spotlight was placed on triptans as a result of research by Diener's group, which recruited some 200 patients who had experienced unsatisfactory migraine treatment with sumatriptan – which is sold by the brand name Imitrex -- on at least two occasions. The participants were randomly given either another triptan, almotriptan (branded as Axert), to take for their next migraine, or an inactive placebo tablet.

The percentage of patients who experienced pain relief at two hours was significantly higher in the almotriptan group than the placebo group, 47% to 24%. Almotriptan was also associated with greater sustained pain-free effectiveness.

The number of adverse events did not differ significantly between groups, the researchers note.

These results aren't surprising, Diener and his colleagues said in their report, since "migraine patients are not all the same, migraine headaches are not all the same, and triptans are not all the same."

As a result, the researchers conclude that "when migraine patients respond poorly to sumatriptan or other triptan treatment, another agent in this class should be attempted."

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