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A new drug for migraine.


If you are among the estimated 8 percent of Americans affected by migraine headaches and have experienced significant side effects from ergotamine, the longstanding treatment of choice, take heart. A new drug, sumatriptan, already widely tested in Europe and now undergoing limited testing in the U.S., shows promise of providing as effective relief for migraine headache as ergotamine, with fewer side effects.

Of the 624 patients studied at 52 European medical centers, half were given a tablet of sumatriptan for a migraine headache, and the other half received a placebo. Approximately 70 percent of those receiving the drug reported significant or total headache relief within two hours of taking the medication, whereas only 22 percent of the placebo group reported relief. Mild side effects-feelings of warmth, heaviness or pressure-occurred in only 4 to 10 percent of those receiving the drug, compared to 5 percent in the placebo group. The drug was also tested in injectable form, with about 50 percent of patients reporting relief within 30 minutes, compared to 26 percent in the placebo group. American studies with the injectable form of the drug showed essentially identical results, with only minor side effects that lasted less than 30 minutes. On the basis of these studies, the manufacturer, Glaxo Pharmaceuticals, will seek FDA approval later this year for both forms of the drug.

But before you rush off to Europe to obtain the drug, let your physician advise you on the matter. If you do suffer from migraine headache, sumatriptan may be for you-but if the diagnosis is your own, here are some basic facts about the condition. Migraine is characterized by paroxysmal attacks of headache often preceded by psychological or visual disturbances and sometimes followed by drowsiness. It is more frequent among women than men, and there is often a history of similar headaches in blood relatives. Migraine often begins in childhood; about half of migraine patients report their initial attack before age 15. Characteristically, the headache occurs in episodes associated with such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and other visual disturbances. The symptoms are thought to be due to sudden constriction of blood vessels in the brain (thus the visual and other preliminary symptoms), followed by dilatation and distention of cranial vessels that produce the throbbing headache.
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Title Annotation:sumatriptan
Publication:Medical Update
Date:May 1, 1990
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