Sumatriptan: General Overview – Interactions, Warnings

Introduction Migraine is a debilitating neurological condition characterized by severe headaches, nausea, and sometimes visual disturbances known as auras. Sumatriptan is one of the first and most well-known medications designed specifically to treat migraines. Below, we delve into its mechanism of action, benefits, side effects, and uses.

Mechanism of Action Sumatriptan belongs to a class of drugs known as triptans. Triptans work by stimulating serotonin (a neurotransmitter) receptors in the brain. This action causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict, which can reverse the dilation that’s believed to be part of the migraine process. This can lead to a reduction in inflammation and alleviate pain.


  • Migraine: Sumatriptan is mainly used to treat migraines with or without auras in adults.
  • Cluster Headaches: It can also be used to treat cluster headaches, a severe type of headache that is less common than migraines.

Administration Sumatriptan is available in multiple formulations, including:

  • Tablets: Taken orally.
  • Nasal spray: Delivers the medication through the nasal mucosa.
  • Injection: For a quicker onset of relief.

The appropriate method depends on the patient’s preferences, the severity and frequency of the headaches, and physician guidance.


  1. Fast-Acting: Depending on the mode of administration, Sumatriptan can provide relief in as little as 10-15 minutes (injectable form).
  2. Specific to Migraines: Unlike general pain relievers, Sumatriptan is specifically formulated for migraines and therefore may be more effective.
  3. Reduces Associated Symptoms: Beyond alleviating headache pain, it can also reduce other migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Side Effects As with all medications, Sumatriptan may cause side effects, although not everyone will experience them. Some common side effects include:

  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes
  • Warm or cold sensations
  • Weakness, drowsiness, or dizziness
  • Flushing
  • Feeling of tightness in the chest or throat

Rare but serious side effects can also occur, including:

  • Chest pain or irregular heartbeat
  • Severe stomach pain or bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures

It’s essential to seek medical advice if any unusual or severe side effects are noticed.

Contraindications and Precautions Sumatriptan should not be taken:

  • By individuals with certain types of heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Within 24 hours of taking another migraine medication, especially another triptan or an ergotamine medication.
  • By those with a history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Patients should inform their healthcare provider of all medical conditions and medications to ensure that Sumatriptan is safe for them.

Conclusion Sumatriptan has revolutionized migraine treatment by offering targeted relief for many sufferers. While it’s not suitable for everyone and may come with potential side effects, its specific action against migraines has made it a go-to option for many healthcare providers and patients. As with all medications, it’s crucial to work closely with a healthcare professional to determine if Sumatriptan is the right choice.

Specific Sources/Comments/Reports

The frequent use (>15 times/month) of medication for the treatment of acute migraine attacks may cause medication overuse headache. This kind of headache can be caused by the intake of a combination of analgesics, opioids, ergot alkaloids and triptans.- Curr Med Res Opin 2001;17 Suppl 1:s17-21 — Medication overuse headache. — Diener HC, Katsarava Z.

If butorphanol nasal spray is administered <30 min after sumatriptan nasal spray, the analgesic effect of butorphanol may be diminished due to reduced nasal absorption resulting from probable transient vasoconstriction of nasal blood vessels by sumatriptan.- Cephalalgia 2002 May;22(4):282-7 — A pharmacokinetic interaction study between butorphanol and sumatriptan nasal sprays in healthy subjects: importance of the timing of butorphanol administration. — Vachharajani NN, Shyu WC, Nichola PS, Boulton DW.

Major depression and migraine are commonly comorbid. Therefore, there is considerable opportunity for serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are commonly prescribed for the treatment of depression, to be used at the same time as sumatriptan, an anti-migraine treatment. As both of these drugs increase serotonin transmission, the potential for drug interaction is considerable. Adverse event reports were obtained from the post-marketing surveillance of fluoxetine in Canada. Of 22 adverse event reports obtained six showed varying degrees of evidence of a drug interaction between fluoxetine and sumatriptan, suggesting that this combination is not entirely free of side-effects and should be used with caution when indicated.- Acta Psychiatr Scand 1997 Jun;95(6):551-2 — Co-administration of fluoxetine and sumatriptan: the Canadian experience. — Joffe RT, Sokolov ST.

All triptans narrow coronary arteries by 10% to 20% at clinical doses and should not be administered to patients with coronary or cerebrovascular disease. Some triptans have the potential for significant drug-drug interactions (sumatriptan, rizatriptan, and zomitriptan and monoamine oxidase inhibitors; rizatriptan and propanolol; zolmitriptan and cimetidine; and eletriptan and CYP3A4 metabolized medications and p-glycoprotein pump inhibitors).- Med Clin North Am 2001 Jul;85(4):959-70 — Safety and rational use of the triptans. — Tepper SJ.

Care should be taken when sumatriptan is administered to patients with liver disease.- Clin Pharmacokinet 1994 Nov;27(5):337-44 — Sumatriptan clinical pharmacokinetics. — Scott AK.

Interactions may occur with other prescription medications. Consult with your physician if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and before taking herbs or supplements.

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