Double-blind clinical trials of oral triptans vs other classes of acute migraine medication - A review

R. B. Lipton, M. E. Bigal, P. J. Goadsby

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Although the migraine clinical trials literature is enormous, we identified only nine published double-blind studies which compare an oral triptan with a non-triptan acute treatment. Of the nine comparative trials that met inclusion criteria for this review, six compared sumatriptan with other drugs, zolmitriptan was studied in two trials and eletriptan in one trial. In seven of the nine studies reviewed herein, differences between active treatments on the primary endpoints were not dramatic. Experience in clinical practice suggests that, for many patients, oral triptans are superior to non-specific acute treatments, creating a discrepancy between clinical trials results and clinical practice experience. Four possible explanations for the disparities between clinical trials and clinical practice are likely: (i) statistically significant differences may not have emerged because the studies lack adequate statistical power; (ii) patients treated with triptans in clinical practice may be relatively more responsive to triptans and relatively less responsive to other agents than those who participate in clinical trials (patient selection); (iii) headache response at 2 h, as measured in clinical trials, may not fully capture the benefits of triptans relative to other therapies, as assessed in clinical practice; (iv) waiting until pain is moderate or severe, as required in clinical trials, may disadvantage triptans relative to comparators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-332
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Analgesics
  • Clinical trial
  • Ergotamine
  • Non-steroidal medication
  • Triptans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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