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Triptans over the counter... not just yet.

The TGA have announced that triptans have been downscheduled so they can be sold in small packs over the counter at your local pharmacy without a prescription from 1 February 2021. While it is legal from February, it will be about another 3-6 months before the product is actually in your local pharmacy.

Triptans will be available in small pack (maximum two tablets) without a prescription. The larger pack sizes, non-tablet forms and stronger doses you will still need a prescription for.

While this is great news for those who use triptans, giving them the capacity to get the medications they need quickly if they are out and about without their medication, there is a concern around people that do not know how triptans are to be used, and perhaps have never seen a doctor for their migraine.

Triptans are usually only effective if taken right at the beginning of the headache in a typical migraine attack. If the headache goes away and comes back in about two hours, you can take one more dose. If the first one doesn’t work, you should not take any more. And whether it works or doesn’t, you should not take more as the attack progresses.

Phases of migraine indicating when triptans should be used.

If triptans are taken more than 10 days a month, they can cause the secondary condition of medication overuse headache.

Additionally, triptans are not recommended for people with certain types of migraine, and very few people living with migraine have received an accurate diagnosis including their subtype. People with heart conditions shouldn’t use triptans. They are also not recommended for people on SSRI anti-depressants, as triptans also work by modifying serotonin uptake.

Triptans are commonly available in other countries from pharmacies without a prescription.

If you are already using triptans and are familiar with the MOH prevention guidelines, this is a good thing. For those who are not, we urge you not to self medicate with triptans.

Note: while triptans can be legally sold over the counter from February 2021, it will be more like August or September before they are available. This is because there is a process that needs to happen to agree on the packaging and warnings for over the counter sales of the products, and, as you might expect, the TGA has been a little busy with some COVID related matter so this is taking a bit longer than they had originally planned. Migraine Australia will be making a submission into the consultation part of this process to request that an MOH warning be included on the required warnings of triptan packaging. 

We have also been working with the Pharmacists Guild to ensure they have a good training program for pharmacists on triptans and MOH, and we will be sure to let you know when they are actually in store.  

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