Triptans are first-line medications to treat acute migraine, but new research shows patients do not take them in more than 40% of their migraine attacks.

Few studies have been conducted regarding how closely migraine patients follow treatment protocols.  Recently, however, Robert A. Nicholson, PhD, of Mercy Clinic Headache Center and Mercy Health Research in Saint Louis, led a team that studied more than 260 migraineurs, who kept headache diaries for at least one month. Over the course of the study, patients reported 4,291 migraines and treated 57.2 with triptans. When they did so, they were more likely to report mild pain (56%) and less disability than when they recorded moderate pain (43%) or severe pain (39%).

Patients were also more likely to use triptans when they experienced nausea, photophobia, throbbing pain or unilateral pain. Those who were least likely to adhere to the use of triptans were unmarried males with a higher number of headache days each month.

The study did not determine why patients chose not to take their medication, but researchers suggest improved patient education about the benefits of triptans is important.

“One of the things we want to do is encourage providers to work with their patients and make sure patients are engaged in their own care to be able to be their own best managers of their pain,” Dr. Nicholson told Medscape Medical News. “They should be trained to pay attention to their symptoms so they can give themselves the best chance of success in treating a migraine when it occurs.”