Health care professionals frequently prescribe triptans to stop migraine attacks, and new research shows that when professionals educate migraineurs about the medications, patients are more likely to use them as directed and are less likely to discontinue their use.

This was the message from a recent study that evaluated actual knowledge about triptans in patients receiving education about them versus those who received no education. It was presented at the International Headache Congress last month. Eric P. Baron, DO, of the Cleveland Clinic, led the study, which included information from 207 migraine patients who used triptans and received care at a variety of headache clinics around the country.

“We know that patient education is crucial for safe and effective treatment with triptans,”  Dr. Baron said, “but we also sought to evaluate the direct benefit of patient education as well as ascertain how many patients were actually getting information on their medications.”

Triptans are most effective when taken early in an attack while pain is still mild and before skin sensitivity increases, a factor that is important for patients to understand, making education about them essential.

The findings of the study included the following:

  • More than 87% of patients received education about when to take triptans and number of doses allowed per migraine;
  • Roughly 72% received information about triptan side effects;
  • About 64% received information on the number of triptan doses allowed each week or month;
  • Approximately 64% reported receiving education about taking other medications with the triptan;
  • Slightly less than 50% reported receiving information on medical contraindications to triptans, including coronary artery disease (CAD).

Compared to patients who had not received education about when to take triptans, those who received education better understood when to take triptans and that CAD contradicts their use.

While education has proven helpful in some regards, more improvement is needed.

“Education on triptan side effects, number of doses allowed each month, taking other medications with triptans and triptan contraindications requires improvement,” he said.