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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Silberstein, S. D., Dodick, D., & Kesslick, J. (2005). Removing barriers to appropriate migraine treatment: formulary limitations and triptan package size. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 45(9), 1250-1254.

Comments

  • carbonze
    7 months ago

    Is the packaging getting better? haha

    https://bit.ly/2FxnJVr

  • Jenn Tyborski
    5 years ago

    Interesting…just making a wild connection, but is it possible that insurance companies limit the amount of pills often allowed each cycle for this reason?

  • Vanessa
    5 years ago

    what a fantastically simple idea. thanks for sharing.

  • KatherineO
    5 years ago

    I’m one of the ones who carry around a baby scissors in its little cover because my sumatriptan blister packs are impossible to open. I once asked the pharmacist about taking them out of the blister pack and he said don’t.

  • Hyena8
    5 years ago

    Whoever put them in the blister packs obviously does not get migraines. I keep mine cut up in the pill cutter for emergencies.

  • Sherry
    5 years ago

    Wow! And I thought I was the only one who had a problem with this. I use Sumatriptan in the blister packs and have resorted to cutting each tablet open ahead of time. I carry a pack in my purse and one in my carryon bag when I travel. Since I get mine from a mail away service I cannot use the bottle idea that was suggested by others. But I did take the individual blisters out of the box, cut them apart and put them in a baggie. Then I cut off the front label from the box and put it in there with the meds. Much less to carry. Who ever designed this ” money saving packaging” has clearly never suffered from a migraine.

  • theovenbird
    5 years ago

    I once wrote the company who makes Maxalt to complain about their excessive packages– blue plastic boxes that held 3 pills. They claimed they were necessary to keep them away from moisture. At least the envelopes inside were fairly easy to open. I now use a generic zolmitriptan and it has the most difficult to open blister packages imaginable. I even switched pharmacies to one that stocked an easier-to-open generic version– but then that pharmacy switched to carrying the one I hate. It’s ridiculous. The worst is trying to open them at night.

  • Cindy
    5 years ago

    I am so glad to hear I am not the only one that has trouble with the packaging. Finding this website has truly been a blessing. I really thought I was going insane. To read the other stories of other migraine sufferers are going through helps such a great deal.

  • gonzo
    5 years ago

    I don’t think your allowed to put them in other packaging. As funny as this is I learned that from watching cops. I have to divide my medicine when I travel so I just use last months bottle.

  • marycr8on
    5 years ago

    Some of that packaging is even too difficult to open when I don’t have a migraine! Using a nail clipper can work on those, if you don’t have any other way to open them. But I started opening them when I get them, like Kerrie suggested in the article with the prescription on the bottle. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one frustrated by this!

  • Angiestl
    5 years ago

    Most pharmacies (depending on state law of course) should be able to give you an empty bottle with the prescription label on the bottle, since those suckers don’t always come off the original crack age very easily. There’s no harm in asking the pharmacist if you can get a bottle with the label on it when you pick up your prescription or even stop by for something else. If it’s against state law, they will tell you that, and some may ask why you would need the bottle(s), but if you explain that you have trouble opening those god awful packages in the middle of a migraine, most pharmacists should be sympathetic enough to do this for you. Plus if you are traveling and have the medicine in a clearly marked container, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting through security. I’d think the same thing would go for Jamie, when you’re in the hospital.

  • Lisa Donohue
    5 years ago

    Hi, I am an 18 year old female, for the past few years I have had really bad headaches and three times, one of them recently, I have had episodes of where I stood up and I could see all black and the first time this happened I just fell and the two other times I’d see black and the right sight of my body would shake violently, as well as this the past few months my headaches have gradually gotten worse and recently theyve been so bad, with pains in my ears severe pain on my left temple and feeling sick as well as a stiff neck. I know it’s not dehydration because I drink four litres of water per day, I’ve also lost a bit of weight the past few weeks and im shaking constantly can anyone help or has anyone else experienced this? Thanks

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    5 years ago

    Lisa,
    Seeing black when you stand up could be that you have low blood pressure. The other symptoms you mentioned, worsening headaches, ringing in the ears, stiff neck and tremours, are indicative of severe Migraines as well, but they could be symptoms of other neurological disorders.

    There’s no need to panic as I can understand that these symptoms can be very scary. However, I encourage you to see a neurologist right away. If you’ve never had a full neuro exam, it would be best to get one to rule out anything more serious. Most likely you’ll need an MRI too.

    If Migraine is found to be the primary issue, there are preventative medications you could be put on to help with the daily symptoms. This article details some of the options:
    http://migraine.com/pro/preventative-treatment-for-migraine-overview-and-approach/

    I also suggest that you try to see a Headache Specialist. This is a neurologist who has had specific training to treat the over 300 headache disorders. They are the best equipped to treat and manage your complex symptoms. Here is a list of Specialists:
    http://www.ucns.org/globals/axon/assets/10300.pdf

    -Katie

  • LAnnSmith
    5 years ago

    I’m glad to know I can open a few to have ready. A week ago I was a mess and flipped a pack into the toilet trying to open one, they’re too expensive for that.

    I’ve always assumed they needed some airtight protection, and I’m kind of angry that I’ve put up with all these years of frustration for no reason other than expensive inventory.

  • coco_nicole
    5 years ago

    Wow! I thought it was just me! My Frova is impossible to open, I’m always stabbing at it with a knife! So frustrating! Glad it’s not just me 🙂

  • chebbot
    5 years ago

    When I’m mid migraine I usually need help, my fingers stop working properly. My mom always said “Clearly who ever packaged these has never had a migraine!” I still keep them separate so I can keep a couple in my purse, a couple on my nightstand etc. I’m too afraid of losing the whole bottle. Scares me to think about!

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