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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Too Many Heart Patients Getting Migraine Drugs

Triptans Taken by 22% of Migraine Sufferers With Heart Problems Who Shouldn't Take Them

22% With Heart Conditions Given Triptans

The new study aimed to find out how many migraine patients with cardiac conditions that prohibit triptan use are prescribed triptans.

Using data from 10 health plans, researchers identified 121,286 people with migraines.

Of those:

  • 38% had been given one or more prescriptions for a triptan.
  • 8% had a cardiac condition that prohibited the use of triptans.
  • 22% of those with a heart condition that prohibited the use of triptans were given a triptan prescription during 2009.

"If they were given a prescription, it’s likely they took the drug," says researcher Daisy Ng-Mak, PhD, director of global health outcomes at Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. in West Point, Pa., which funded the study.

Tepper says that he has patients with migraines that are only helped by triptans. "When I tell them they can’t take the drugs, they get extremely upset," he says.

So what should these people do?

"There's a huge unmet need for a new drug," Ng-Mak says.

As for people with migraines and one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, Tepper advises talking to your doctor to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for triptans.

That includes men over 40 and women over 50, people with diabetes, or a family history of heart disease or stroke, and smokers, he says.

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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