Sumatriptan

  • Sumatriptan is used to treat migraine headaches.
  • This medicine may make you sleepy. If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol.
  • You may experience sensations of tightness or heaviness in your chest after taking sumatriptan. These sensations usually do not last long, but if they continue or become intense, stop taking sumatriptan and contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Type of medicine 5HT1-receptor agonist (also known as a 'triptan')
Used for Treatment of acute migraine attacks
Cluster headache (injection only)
Also called Imigran®
Imigran® Radis
Imigran® Recovery
Imigran® Subject
Available as Tablets, nasal spray and injection

It is not clear what causes migraine. It is thought that some chemicals in the brain increase in activity, and as a result parts of the brain then send out confused signals which result in the symptoms of migraine.

It is also not clear why people with migraine should develop these chemical changes and most migraine attacks occur for no apparent reason. In some people, however, there may be things which trigger an attack, like certain foods or drinks.

Sumatriptan works by stimulating the receptors of a chemical in the brain called serotonin (or 5HT1). This improves the symptoms felt during a migraine.

Before taking sumatriptan make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are aged over 65 years or under 18 years old.
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have heart problems, especially if you have recently had a heart attack.
  • If you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have problems with your circulation.
  • If you have ever had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (also referred to as a TIA or 'mini-stroke').
  • If you have ever had a fit.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine. It is particularly important that you tell your doctor if you have ever had a bad reaction to a sulfonamide antibacterial (such as co-trimoxazole and sulfadiazine).
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Take sumatriptan exactly as your doctor has told you. Make sure you know how to administer the preparation you have been given.
  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack as well any additional information you have been given by your doctor.
  • If you have been supplied the tablets: take one dose as soon as possible at the first sign of an attack, with a drink of water. If your migraine improves but then returns, you may take one further dose, providing it is at least two hours after the initial dose. Do not take more than two doses in 24 hours.
  • If you have been supplied the injection: use one dose as soon as possible at the first sign of an attack. If your migraine improves but then returns, you may use one further dose, providing it is at least one hour after the initial dose. Do not administer more than two doses in 24 hours.
  • If you have been supplied the nasal spray: spray one puff into one nostril at the first sign of an attack. If your migraine improves but then returns, one further puff can be sprayed into one nostril, providing it is at least two hours after your first dose. Do not administer more than two doses in 24 hours.
  • If your migraine is not eased after the first dose of sumatriptan, do not take a second dose for the same attack. You may however take a painkiller such as paracetamol, aspirin, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory preparation such as ibuprofen.
  • Sumatriptan is used to treat a migraine once it has started, but there are other medicines that are available that may help prevent you having migraines. If you have migraines frequently, discuss this with your doctor.
  • Do not take other migraine treatments (such as other 'triptans' or ergotamine) as well as sumatriptan.
  • If you find that sumatriptan does not relieve your migraine, make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor, as an alternative preparation may prove to be more effective for you.
  • If you buy any 'over-the-counter' medicines, check with your pharmacist which medicines are safe for you to take alongside sumatriptan.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 people who take this medicine What can I do if I experience this?
Dizziness, drowsiness If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Feeling or being sick Stick to simple foods
Pressure or tightness in any part of the body, including the throat or chest If these feelings continue or become intense, stop taking sumatriptan and contact your doctor as soon as possible
Feeling weak, short of breath, tingling feelings, flushing, feeling hot, muscle aches If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor or pharmacist

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your pharmacist or doctor.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of this medicine go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Dr Hayley Willacy
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Last Checked:
15/11/2011
Document ID:
1491 (v24)
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