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How To Get Sumatriptan Over The Counter

Sumatriptan over the counter can be used for treatment of acute migraines

When a migraine happens,  many patients reach for common analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen or combination products containing codeine such as co-codamol or Migraleve. Sumatriptan is a medication that can be used to relieve an acute migraine attack.

Sumatriptan works differently from analgesics. In this post, I will discuss the mechanism of action, suitability & requirements for the supply, and possible side effects of sumatriptan over the counter.

Sumatriptan Mechanism Of Action?

Sumatriptan mechanism of action

As the name suggests, sumatriptan belongs to a group of drugs called ‘triptans.'

Sumatriptan acts on serotonin receptors located in the brain.

The main mechanism of action of triptans is constriction (narrowing) of the blood vessels in the brain to counteract dilation, which causes the migraine headache.

Other mechanisms of triptans are known; however, the description of these is beyond the scope of this post.

Triptans have a fast onset of action and target the areas involved in migraines development with great precision (affinity), allowing good effectiveness in symptom relief, with a low occurrence of side effects (Tepper et al. 2002).

Quick FAQ

Is Sumatriptan a painkiller?
Sumatriptan can only relieve migraine pain and cannot be used for other pain relief.

What Brand Of Sumatriptan Over The Counter Can Be Purchased From The Pharmacy?

The following brands of sumatriptan are available in the UK

  • Migraitan 50mg tablets
  • Imigran Recovery 50mg tablets
  • Boots Migraine Relief 50 mg Tablets
brands of sumatriptan are available in the UK

All of the above products are pharmacy-only medicines sold under the supervision of a pharmacist.  Each product contains two sumatriptan 50mg tables.

Quick FAQ

Is Sumatriptan a controlled substance?
According to CSA, Sumatriptan is not a controlled substance.

Sumatriptan Over The Counter Requirements

Sumatriptan over the counter is licensed for adults aged 18-65 in the treatment of acute symptoms of migraines. Sumatriptan is not taken to prevent a migraine attack. Patients requesting a supply of sumatriptan from the pharmacy are usually asked to complete a health questionnaire to help to confirm that:

  • Age is appropriate
  • The patient is not pregnant or breastfeeding
  • The patient had more than four migraine attacks in the past, and the first one happened more than a year ago
  • The patient was diagnosed with migraines by a doctor and had been previously prescribed triptans or other prophylactic medication
  • Diagnosis by a doctor is not required; patients can answer further questions to help pharmacists to confirm a migraine diagnosis

Additionally, patients are asked about:

  • frequency, the duration, and symptoms they experience during a migraine attack
  • medication being taken

Lastly, the patient requesting sumatriptan over the counter will need to answer questions to assess cardiovascular risk:

  • Weight & BMI
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Any medical conditions increasing cardiovascular risks, such as diabetes or high cholesterol
  • Smoking status

Sumatriptan should only be used where a clear diagnosis of migraines has been made by a doctor or pharmacist.

Quick FAQ

How can you get Sumatriptan over the counter?
You can get Sumatriptan over the counter with a proper prescription. You can get it without prescription too only if you have a past history of migraine.

How To Take Sumatriptan Over The Counter

One tablet should be taken as soon as possible after the first signs of a migraine. An additional tablet can be taken only if symptoms go away and come back. Additional sumatriptan tablets should not be taken if patients did not get any relief from the first dose. Patients should not take more than two tablets in 24 hours.

Sumatriptan Possible Side Effects

Common side effects of sumatriptan include (EMC, 2019):

  • Drowsiness, dizziness, and sensory disturbance
  • Temporary increase in blood pressure & flushing after taking the medication
  • Dyspnoea (shortness of breath or breathlessness)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensations of heaviness, tightness, or pain in the chest or throat (should not last more than 2 hours)
  • Pain, sensations of heat or cold (can affect any part of the body)
  • Feelings of weakness, fatigue

To read more about other possible side effects and important information regarding sumatriptan, read the product information leaflet. EMC website provides product information leaflets for all licensed medicines, including sumatriptan. Additional information on migraine symptoms and management can be found on the NHS website.