When a migraine strikes, many people turn to over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, as well as codeine-based combination drugs like co-codamol and Migraleve. Sumatriptan is a migraine drug that will help you feel better quickly. Sumatriptan functions in a different way to other analgesics.

How does Sumatriptan work?

A migraine attack is not prevented by taking Sumatriptan. Sumatriptan belongs to a class of drugs known as ‘triptans,’ as its name suggests. Sumatriptan works by binding to serotonin receptors in the brain. The key mechanism of action of triptans is to constrict (narrow) the blood vessels in the brain in order to offset the dilation that causes migraine headaches.

Triptans provide rapid relief and target the areas in the brain from where the migraine originates with great precision. This allows the person experiencing these debilitating migraines to feel better, with a low chance of any serious side effects.

Sumatriptan is available in tablet, nasal spray, and injection form. Migraines and cluster headaches are treated with a nasal spray and injection. Tablets can only be used to treat migraines.

How can I obtain Sumatriptan without a prescription?

Sumatriptan 50mg

In the UK, Sumatriptan normally needs a prescription from a doctor or another appropriate healthcare professional. Packs containing two 50mg pills are available without a prescription from a pharmacy, but only if you have been diagnosed with migraines previously.

You can also buy them online from our website. You will need to complete a short online consultation form to ensure that they are suitable for you – this is completely free of charge. The medication is then delivered to your home, so you have it ready for when a migraine strikes.

What questions will I be asked if I want to buy Sumatriptan over the counter?

Over-the-counter Sumatriptan is approved for the treatment of acute migraine symptoms in adults aged 18 to 65. Patients requesting a supply of sumatriptan over-the-counter from the pharmacy will be asked to complete a health questionnaire to ensure that the treatment is suitable for them to use. Some of the questions that you may be asked include:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Have you experienced more than four migraine attacks in the past, and the first one was over a year ago?
  • Have you been diagnosed with migraines by a doctor?
  • Have you previously prescribed triptans or other prophylactic medication for migraines?
  • How often do you have migraines?
  • How long do your migraines last?
  • What symptoms do you experience?
  • Your weight and BMI
  • Is there any family history of heart disease?
  • Are there any increased cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure?
  • Do you smoke?

How should over-the-counter Sumatriptan be taken?

One tablet should be taken as soon as possible when migraine symptoms start.

Only if symptoms disappear and reappear should you take an additional pill. If patients do not experience relief from the first dose, they do not take another sumatriptan tablet. In a 24-hour period, people should take no more than two tablets.

Possible side effects of Sumatriptan

  • Sensory disturbances, drowsiness, and dizziness
  • After taking the drug, you may experience a temporary rise in blood pressure 
  • Dyspnoea (shortness of breath or breathlessness)
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • In the chest or throat, feelings of heaviness, tightness, or pain (should not last more than 2 hours)
  • Pain, hot or cold sensations (can affect any part of the body)
  • Feelings of exhaustion and weakness


Although all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it should not be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please speak to your doctor.

Authored May 21, 2021 by Joseph Issac, MPharm
Reviewed May 21, 2021 by Prabjeet Saundh, MPharm