Outsmarting Triptan Packaging

When migraine makes you clumsy or reduces the strength of your grip, opening triptan packaging can be unbelievably frustrating. Some people keep small scissors with them to get to their drugs, but there’s an even easier way to deal with triptan tablets: Take them out of the packaging ahead of time and put them in their own container, like an empty pill bottle. To keep track of dosing information and the prescription number for refills, remove the prescription label from the original box and stick it on the new container.

Triptans pills are no different than any other medication in tablets, they just happen to be packaged in blister packs. Even dissolving tablets, like Maxalt MLT and Zomig ZMT, can be removed from their original packaging as long as they aren’t exposed to moisture. That’s according to my pharmacist, who told me that dissolvable medications have gotten sturdier in recent years. If you're nervous that maybe your particular prescription needs to stay in blister packs, your pharmacist should be able to allay your concerns.

There’s one caveat to this recommendation: if you’ll be traveling by air, keeping your triptans in their original packaging (with the original prescription label) could save you some TSA hassles. (This goes for all medications. Some states even require that controlled substances, like opioids and ADHD meds, be carried in their original containers.)

Wondering why triptans come in annoying blister packs when they don’t need to? It’s an economic thing. Normally, pharmacies stock medications in large quantities and dispense them for individual prescriptions. When triptans first became available, they were considerably more expensive than many other drugs. To make triptans affordable for pharmacies to stock, manufacturers used blister packs to distribute the drugs in smaller quantities.1 This is what started the trend in the 1990s and it has continued, even with much less expensive generic versions of the drugs. Some companies have stopped using blister packs for triptans, but the change has been slow to come.

Even the littlest frustrations are magnified during a migraine. Not having to fuss over getting medication out of its packaging is a welcome relief.

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