The Migraine Treatment Toolbox: Medications

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | October 12, 2021

A Closer Look at Migraine Medications

As we continue to look further into the Migraine Treatment Toolbox, today we focus on migraine medications. Finding the right medications can be a challenging and lengthy process that requires time and patience. Educating yourself on the options available and partnering with your doctor can help you find a successful treatment.

Let’s put your migraine medication knowledge to the test:


1. Medications can’t cure migraine disease.

TRUE. There currently is no cure for migraine disease, but there are many more treatment options available than ever before. While you may find a medication that works for you, it’s important to keep in mind that medications alone are not a magic bullet. Migraine medications work best when used as part of an overall treatment plan—one that includes things like migraine medical devices, and focusing on other lifestyle factors such as diet, sleep, and exercise. Check out our Migraine Treatment Toolbox to learn how to customize your own treatment toolbox.

2. If a medication doesn’t work for someone I know, it won’t work for me either.

FALSE. Migraine disease affects everyone differently and we all respond differently to medications. Some people may find great success with certain medications while for others they may not be effective or as effective. Working with your doctor to understand your specific type of migraine, look at what has worked (or not worked) in the past, and learn what is appropriate given any other medical conditions you have, can help determine the best medication options for you. The same is true for side effects—just because someone you know has side effects to a medication does not mean that you will experience these also!

3. Combining medications can be an effective migraine treatment.

TRUE. Those with migraine disease often find success using a combination of different types of migraine medications. Sometimes a combination of preventive medications can be more effective than one alone. The same is true for abortive treatment, where it is common to see a triptan, ergotamine or gepant prescribed together with an anti-emetic or other medication. Working with your doctor to determine your personalized treatment plan can help you better manage life with migraine. View a full list of medications and types here.

4. Over-the-Counter medications can’t treat a migraine attack.

FALSE. Over-the-counter medications such as Excedrin, Aleve and Advil can effectively relieve migraine pain for some. However, relying on these treatments excessively can cause medication-overuse headache (MOH), and increase the risk that your migraines may become chronic. According to the American Headache Society, if you have 4 or more migraine DAYS per month, or other debilitating migraine symptoms, you should talk with your doctor about exploring a preventive treatment option.

5. Medications can make my migraine attacks worse.

TRUE. As mentioned above, relying heavily on abortive medications may cause medication-overuse-headache and is known to cause chronic daily headaches in some patients. Acute medications should be used less than three times per week. If you are needing abortive medications frequently, it’s important to talk with your doctor about a more effective treatment option or a combination of treatments.

6. If my doctor prescribes a specific medication, my insurance will cover it.

FALSE. Unfortunately, insurance companies often put up barriers to treatments. Some treatments will require you go through “Step Therapy”—where you have to try, and fail, specific other treatments first. Other treatment options require “Prior Approval” (PA) from your doctor before insurance will cover them. Some medications, particularly those which are new to market, may require a “Formulary Exception.” Navigating the insurance process can be daunting, but there are ways to get your prescribed treatment. Check out our Guide to Understanding Insurance Coverage for more information and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself to get the medications you need!

With many more medication options available than ever before, we are in a new frontier when it comes to migraine treatment. Learn more about how these new treatments work, and get a full list of medications currently available, as well as those in the clinical pipeline.

Remember to keep your hopes high! If you’ve tried medications and they haven’t been successful for you, know that more new treatments are being developed, and you may eventually find one that works. Be sure to join our Hope for Migraine Facebook Group, which specifically focuses on new and emerging treatments.

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