Brand names of sumatriptan

  • Imitrex

Sumatriptan belongs to the category of drugs known as selective serotonin receptor agonists and is used to treat migraine headaches. Other medications belonging to this class of drugs include zolmitriptan (Zomig), almotriptan (Axert), naratriptan (Amerge), frovatriptan (Frova), rizatriptan (Maxalt) and eletriptan (Relpax). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States approved the sale and use of this drug in December 1992.

It is understood that migraine headaches are caused by the distention of the blood vessels within the brain. Sumatriptan helps to alleviate such headaches by means of invigorating the serotonin receptors inside the brain that tighten and constrict the blood vessels in the brain. Simultaneously, sumatriptan also prevents nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Although this medication is extremely useful in alleviating migraine headaches, in effect, sumatriptan does not help in putting off or lessening the frequency of such headaches.

Things you need to tell your physician before taking sumatriptan

As in the instance of any other prescription drug, prior to starting treatment with sumatriptan, it is essential to tell your physician or pharmacist if you have any allergic reactions from using this medication, or any other triptan drug (for instance, rizatriptan, zolmitriptan), or if you have any additional allergies. People suffering from some specific health conditions should not use this selective serotonin receptor agonist drug. Therefore, it is important for you to tell your physician regarding all your medical conditions and the entire medical history before you start using this drug. Tell your physician if you have or ever had any heart ailment (for instance, heart attack, chest pain); disease related to blood circulation (for instance, ischemic bowel disease); uncontrolled hypertension (very high blood pressure); reduced flow of blood to the brain (for instance, transient ischemic attack, stroke); any liver ailment and/ or specific types of headaches (basilar or hemiplegic migraine).

Before you commence treatment with sumatriptan, you should tell your physician if you have or ever had any particular type of blood circulation problem (such as Raynaud's disease) and convulsions. Also tell your physician if you have any of the risk factors associated with heart ailments, such as a family history of heart problems, hypertension (controlled high blood pressure), diabetes, and elevated levels of blood cholesterol. In addition tell your physician if you are overweight and/ or an avid smoker. If you are a male, you should tell your physician if you are over 40 years; and, in case of being a female, tell your physician if your menopause has started. In case you face a very high risk of heart disease, it is likely that your physician would like to examine the condition of your heart prior to recommending sumatriptan for your condition.

The use of sumatriptan is likely to make you feel lightheaded or sleepy. Hence, it is advisable that you do not undertake any task that requires clear vision and alertness, such as driving or operating a machine, till you are certain about the effect of the drug on you and you are able to accomplish these activities safely. People taking this medication should also restrict their consumption of alcoholic beverages. It may be noted that the perils of developing heart ailments, liver diseases as well as hypertension augment as one grows older. It is important to note that the pharmaceutical firm manufacturing sumatriptan does not advise that this medicine be used for elderly patients, as they are more susceptible to the side effects of this medication, counting an elevated blood pressure.

Women who are pregnant should also avoid taking this medication and they ought to talk to their physician regarding the benefits and risks of taking sumatriptan during pregnancy. As this drug is known to pass onto the breast milk and may harm the new born, nursing mothers should talk to their physician prior to taking sumatriptan.


The selective serotonin receptor agonist drug sumatriptan is used to treat severe case of migraine headaches that may be accompanied by aura or without it. This medication facilitates in alleviating headaches, pain as well as several other symptoms of migraine, counting susceptibility to queasiness, vomiting, light and sound. If the treatment is timely, it enables you to resume your regular activities and also lessen your requirement for other pain killing medicines.

However, it needs to be noted that sumatriptan is not useful in preventing migraine headaches or lessening the frequency of their occurrence. It has an influence on specific natural chemicals found in the brain - serotonin, which helps in narrowing the blood vessels inside the brain. In addition, sumatriptan may also obstruct other pain conduits within the brain. Your physician may also prescribe sumatriptan for curing other different kinds of headaches.

How to use sumatriptan

Before you start using sumatriptan or every time you get a refill of the medication it is important to carefully go through the patient information made available by your pharmacist. If you are unable to comprehend anything or have any questions ask your physician or pharmacist to clarify them. This medication is taken orally, with or without food as soon as you notice the first indication of a migraine headache. If you find that your condition does not improve even after taking sumatriptan, stop taking the medicine and contact your physician right away for advice. However, if you get partial relief from your symptoms after taking sumatriptan and if the headache returns after some time, you may take another dose of the medication at least two hours after taking the first dose or as directed by your physician. Here is a word of caution: never take this medication in excess of 200 mg within 24 hours. Sumatriptan may also be employed in the form of a support for sumatriptan injections.

In case you are using sumatriptan injections and you only receive partial relief from it or the migraine headache returns, you may opt for sumatriptan tablets orally instead of taking a second injection two hours after taking the first injection. In addition, if the problem persists even after taking the first sumatriptan injection, if required, you may take sumatriptan tablets at intervals of every two hours. However, in this case you need to be careful of not exceeding 100 mg of sumatriptan tablets within a span of 24 hours. People who have never taken sumatriptan earlier and have the risk factors for developing a heart ailment may require being supervised for rare, but grave side effects of this medication, such as chest pain, when they take this medication for the first time. In such cases, the patients may request their physician to take the first dose of sumatriptan at his/ her office. The dosage of this medication is entirely dependent on the patient's medical condition or as well as the response to the treatment. Contact your physician immediately if you find that there is no improvement in your symptoms or if the symptoms deteriorate even after taking sumatriptan.

How sumatriptan works

Sumatriptan, which is used to treat migraine headaches, seems to stimulate the chemical messengers that are responsible for constricting the blood vessels inside the brain, thereby decreasing the consequences of any migraine. Besides providing relief from the pain caused by migraine headaches, this medication also helps to alleviate vomiting and nausea as well as susceptibility to light and sound and different additional symptoms related to migraines.

Side effects

  • chest pain
  • wheezing or shortness of breath
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids, face or, lips
  • intense itching
  • feeling of heaviness or pressure in the chest
  • hives
  • rapid, shallow, or irregular breathing
  • burning, or redness at injection site
  • a feeling of numbness, tightness, or tingling
  • dizziness
  • feeling cold or weak
  • muscle aches, cramps, or stiffness
  • pain
  • mild pain of the jaw, mouth, tongue, throat, nose, or sinuses
  • feeling flushed or lightheaded
  • a general feeling of warmth or heat
  • nausea or vomiting
  • drowsiness
Less common
  • mild chest pain
  • anxiety
  • vision changes
  • heaviness or pressure in the chest or neck
  • feeling tired or ill

Possible interactions

Herbal medicines or minerals:
Taking sumatriptan in combination of herbs like ma huang, St. John's wort or kola may aggravate the risk factors of migraine. It is essential to identify each of the compounds separately that may set off migraines. As ginseng may partially function as an MAO inhibitor, it is not advisable to use this herb in conjunction with sumatriptan. In addition, using the herb ma huang or compounds similar to ephedrine may cause additive as well as unwanted vasoconstriction (narrowing or tightening of the blood vessels). People who have allergic reactions to the plants belonging to the Asteraceae family (such as chrysanthemum, aster, daisy or ragweed) are also likely to be allergic to herbs like chamomile, Echinacea, St. John's wort and feverfew. In addition, using St. John's wort in combination with sumatriptan may result in alterations in the enzymes produced in the liver and those that assist in removing this medication from the body.
People taking sumatriptan to treat migraine headaches do not have any restrictions regarding their food intake. However, consuming food containing preservatives, for instance, monosodium glutamate or chocolate may aggravate the risk factors for migraine headaches. In addition, foregoing meals may also trigger of migraines. It is advisable that such people should maintain a diary regarding the occurrences of migraine headaches as doing so would help them in recognizing risk factors.
Taking sumatriptan and consuming alcoholic beverages simultaneously may result in additive sedation. In addition, alcohol may also prove to be one of the factors that may trigger off migraine headaches.
Marijuana smoking:
People taking sumatriptan should essentially avoid smoking marijuana. Smoking marijuana and taking this medication at the same time may possibly result in additive wooziness, drowsiness as well as stupor. In addition, it may also cause additive rises in blood pressure.
Exposure to cold:
People who suffer from migraine headaches and are taking sumatriptan should always exercise caution till they are sure of how their body tolerates this medication. When such patients are exposed to cold, it may augment the constriction of the blood vessels even after taking sumatriptan.
Heavy exercise or exertion:
Migraine patients should avoid undertaking rigorous exercises as they may be risk factor for migraines.

Storage instructions

It is important to always store sumatriptan at room temperature in a place where the temperature will never surpass 30°C. Like in the case of any other medication, sumatriptan should also be kept in a place beyond the reach of children. In addition, this medication should be stored in a cool and dark place. When this medication becomes outdated or is required no longer, discard it in a safe and appropriate manner.


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