The Independent Pharmacy

What Is Sumatriptan Used For And How Does It Work?

Scott McDougall
Scott McDougallMPharmDirector & Registered Manager

Reviewed on 4 Jul 2023

If you suffer from migraines and you’d like to know more about migraine medication Sumatriptan, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve created this page to answer the most common questions about Sumatriptan. We’ll be covering everything from what it is used for, to who can take it, to using it alongside other medicines.

Let’s get started.

What is Sumatriptan?

Sumatriptan is a prescription-only migraine medication available in the UK.

For many migraine sufferers, it is an extremely effective and fast-acting treatment that tackles migraine symptoms and alleviates pain.

Sumatriptan is a generic, low-cost version of the branded migraine medicine Imigran. The original Imigran patent for using sumatriptan succinate (the active ingredient) has now lapsed — which means that pharmaceutical companies are able to produce and sell cheaper versions of the drug. This means that Sumatriptan is medically the same as a branded version, but much cheaper.

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Is Sumatriptan a narcotic?

Sumatriptan is not a narcotic. It is a type of medication known as a ‘triptan’. These are selective serotonin receptor agonists (or 5HT agonists) — painkillers specifically used to relieve migraine attacks.

Previously, narcotics (opioids) have been prescribed by doctors for migraines, but these drugs are generally considered ineffective and potentially addictive, so they are no longer used as widely.

What is Sumatriptan used for?

Sumatriptan is used to treat migraines quickly and effectively. It helps to relieve migraine symptoms such as headaches, pain, dizziness, light and sound sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting.

By tackling painful migraine symptoms, Sumatriptan can improve the quality of life and help migraine sufferers to continue with their daily routines.

How does Sumatriptan work?

Some of the changes that occur in the brain which trigger a migraine attack are believed to involve the blood vessels widening.

The active ingredient in Sumatriptan is sumatriptan succinate, which causes the blood vessels in the brain to contract — helping to tackle the symptoms of migraines.

Sumatriptan works by stimulating serotonin receptors in the brain, which causes the muscles surrounding the blood vessels in the brain to contract.

Sumatriptan also stabilises some of the chemical changes in the brain during a migraine attack, which alleviates migraine symptoms.

How long does Sumatriptan take to work?

Sumatriptan tablets usually start to work after 30 minutes after taking them.

That’s why it is important to take Sumatriptan as soon as you can feel a migraine coming on, or as soon as possible after a migraine has started. Otherwise, you may not feel the full effects of the drug.

Sumatriptan dosage

Sumatriptan tablets are available in two doses: 50 mg and 100 mg.

The usual recommended dose of Sumatriptan for adults aged 18 to 65 is a single 50 mg tablet, which should be swallowed whole with water when you feel migraine symptoms coming on.

However, in some situations with particularly severe migraines, some patients may require a 100 mg dose.

Your normal dose may be repeated after at least two hours if your migraine symptoms return, but the maximum dose is 300 mg in 24 hours (either three 100 mg tablets or six 50mg tablets). You should not take another dose of sumatriptan for the same migraine.

Sumatriptan side effects

Most Sumatriptan users do not suffer from any negative side effects when using the medication.

However, some side effects may occur which include: nausea, dizziness, tiredness, pain, heaviness, pressure or tightness in the chest, throat or other parts of the body, or unusual sensations such as numbness, tingling and warmth or cold.

For more information about the possible side effects of the medication, you can visit our Sumatriptan side effects page.

Sumatriptan contraindications: who can take Sumatriptan?

Sumatriptan has been widely used for many years now and is generally considered a safe medication.

You should not take Sumatriptan if you have one of the following conditions:

  • You are allergic to Sumatriptan, Triptans-5-HT1 Antimigraine Agents, or any of the ingredients
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have any heart conditions (such as angina, tachyarrhythmia, or heart attacks)
  • You have seizures
  • You have severely reduced liver function or liver disease
  • You use or have recently used, ergotamine or similar medicines (e.g. methysergide maleate) or MAO inhibitors (e.g. moclobemide or selegiline)

This is because taking Sumatriptan could be harmful to you. If in doubt, it is best to speak to your doctor or a medical professional to get their opinion.

Using Sumatriptan with other medicines

You can use Sumatriptan alongside other medicines like painkillers and anti-sickness treatments, such as:

  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin-based painkillers
  • Anti-sickness medication like Buccastem or Prochlorperazine Buccal tablets

However, you should not use other 'triptan' migraine treatments while you are using Sumatriptan, such as:

  • Almogran (almotriptan)
  • Maxalt (rizatriptan)
  • Migard (frovatriptan)
  • Naramig (naratriptan)

This is because these ‘triptan’ drugs belong to the same family of medicines and work in the same way, which would exceed the maximum recommended daily dose and potentially cause adverse effects without giving you any added benefit.

What are the benefits of using Sumatriptan?

There are many benefits to using Sumatriptan: it is considered one of the most effective and fast-working migraine-relief medications on the market. Sumatriptan specifically targets and alleviates migraine symptoms, improving quality of life; many users describe it as ‘life-changing’. You can read our customer reviews of Sumatriptan.

Sumatriptan is also cost-effective because it is a generic version of the branded migraine medicine Imigran.

Both medicines contain exactly the same active ingredient (sumatriptan succinate), so Sumatriptan is medically the same as a branded version. However, because Sumatriptan is sold under its medical name rather than a brand name, it can be sold for cheaper. This makes it an identical yet low-cost, inexpensive version of the more expensive branded medicine.


Sumatriptan is an extremely effective prescription-only migraine medication available in the UK. Taking these tablets can help to alleviate painful migraine symptoms, and help you to live life as normal, despite your migraines.

Sumatriptan is a generic version of the branded medicine Imigran. Because of this, it is much cheaper and much more cost-effective, despite containing exactly the same active ingredient.

If you are suffering from migraines and think Sumatriptan may be the right treatment for you, then you can buy Sumatriptan from The Independent Pharmacy. You just need to fill in an online form for a free consultation with our medical team, and we can get your Sumatriptan delivered to you as quickly as the very next day.


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