These migraine medications are up to 6 times more effective than taking ibuprofen

MINNEAPOLIS – Certain migraine medications are significantly more effective in treating migraines compared to over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, according to a new study. Researchers found that these medications are two to five times more effective, with some being up to six times more effective than standard pain relievers.

Migraine attacks are marked by intense head pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often nausea or vomiting.

“There are many treatment options available to those with migraine. However, there is a lack of head-to-head comparisons of the effectiveness of these treatment options,” says study author Chia-Chun Chiang, MD, of the Mayo Clinic and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, in a media release.

“These results confirm that triptans should be considered earlier for treating migraine, rather than reserving their use for severe attacks.”

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 300,000 participants over six years, collected through a smartphone app. This app enabled users to track migraine attack frequency, triggers, symptoms, and medication effectiveness. The study examined 25 medications across seven drug classes.

Published in the journal Neurology, the study revealed that triptans, ergots, and anti-emetics are notably more effective than ibuprofen in treating migraines. Specifically, triptans are five times more effective, ergots are three times more effective, and anti-emetics are two and a half times more effective than taking ibuprofen for migraines.

migraine headache
(Credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

In terms of individual medications, eletriptan was six times more effective, zolmitriptan five and a half times more effective, and sumatriptan five times more effective than ibuprofen. Eletriptan proved helpful 78 percent of the time, compared to ibuprofen’s 42 percent. Zolmitriptan and sumatriptan showed effectiveness 74 and 72 percent of the time, respectively.

The study also examined other medication groups like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), finding NSAIDs other than ibuprofen to be 94 percent more effective. Additionally, a common migraine treatment combining aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine was found to be 69 percent more effective than using ibuprofen.

“For people whose acute migraine medication is not working for them, our hope is that this study shows that there are many alternatives that work for migraine, and we encourage people to talk with their doctors about how to treat this painful and debilitating condition,” Chiang concludes.

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South West News Service writer Isobel Williams contributed to this report.

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