Migraine is a common, frequently incapacitating, headache disorder that imposes a substantial burden on both the individual patient and society. The last two decades have witnessed an explosion in our understanding of the pathophysiology of migraine, and in our development of an efficacious and diverse therapeutic armamentarium. There are several routes of drug administration available to patients with migraine. All the serotonin 5-HT(1B/1D) receptor agonists (triptans) are available as oral tablets (sumatriptan, rizatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, almotriptan, frovatriptan and eletriptan). Only sumatriptan is available as a subcutaneous injection. Some triptans are also available via newer routes of administration, including orally disintegrating tablets (rizatriptan and zolmitriptan), rectal suppositories (sumatriptan) and intranasal sprays (sumatriptan and zolmitriptan). Oral disintegrating tablets and other non-oral triptan routes (subcutaneous, intranasal, rectal) are a useful alternative to conventional oral tablets for patients who have difficulty swallowing pills or prefer not to do so, and for patients whose nausea and/or vomiting precludes swallowing tablets and/or makes the likelihood of complete absorption unpredictable. This is important because epidemiological studies in migraine reveal that the vast majority of patients (>90%) have experienced nausea during a migraine attack and more than 50% have nausea with the majority of attacks. Similarly, most (almost 70%) have vomited at some time during an attack and of these patients, almost one-third vomit in the majority of attacks. The newer formulations, rapidly dissolving tablets and intranasal sprays, afford patients the opportunity to use abortive therapy without the need for liquids, at anytime and anywhere, at the onset of a migraine attack. Furthermore, the intranasal sprays are absorbed rapidly and have a prompt onset of action allowing for significant pain free rates versus placebo as early as 15 minutes post administration. The ability to administer treatment early in a migraine attack and have a rapid onset of action is particularly important in acute migraine treatment in order to prevent the development of central sensitisation. While many patients and physicians choose conventional oral tablets because of familiarity and ease of administration, the newer formulations, oral disintegrating tablets and intranasal sprays, should be given consideration as first-line agents in selected patients.
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