5 Classes of Drugs Used to Treat Migraines

While an experimental device showed promise in a study, patients already have a menu of options.

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A new study suggests that there may be a drug-free alternative to treating some migraines: a handheld transcranial magnetic stimulation device that, when held against the bottom of the back of the head, eased migraine symptoms in some study volunteers. While it will be months, at a minimum, before the new device reaches market, many medications are currently available for the treatment and prevention of migraines. Here's a sampling of options:

• Triptans, a class of drugs designed to treat migraines. Medications in this category include Imitrex, Relpax, Amerge, Frova, Axert, Maxalt, and Zomig. They ease nausea and pain, as well as sensitivity to light and sound.

• Butalbital, a sedative, is often combined with acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine, or codeine to treat migraines. Narcotics like meperidine are also an option.

• Ergotamine, a decades-old option, which has been used to treat migraines since before the introduction of triptans in 1992.

• Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen can help ease migraines, too.

• There are also options for preventing or reducing the frequency of migraine attacks, including drugs such as amitriptyline, ergonovine, propranolol, clonidine, methysergide, cyproheptadine, calcium channel antagonists, valproic acid, carbamazepine, and topiramate.