Migraine Prescription Drugs

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2024 | Last updated: March 2024

Many types of medicines can be used to treat or prevent migraine. For example, abortive medicines help stop symptoms during migraine attacks. Preventive medicines reduce the severity or frequency of future migraine attacks.1

Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can be purchased without a prescription. They are safe and effective to use as directed on the label without a doctor’s permission. But many migraine pain medicines require a prescription. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of each medicine. They can help you decide on the best options for you.1,2

Abortive prescription medicines for migraine

Abortive medicines relieve pain during a migraine attack. They are designed to stop symptoms. They work best when taken as soon as symptoms begin. Several types of abortive medicines require a prescription.1,3

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are used for mild to moderate migraine. They are often effective and have few side effects. But they should not be taken long-term. Some NSAIDs are available over the counter. Prescription NSAIDs for migraine include:1,3

  • Naprosyn (naproxen sodium)
  • Cambia® (diclofenac potassium)
  • Cataflam® (diclofenac potassium)
  • Indocin® (indomethacin)


Triptans work by blocking pain pathways in the brain. They can relieve many symptoms of migraine. Prescription triptans include:1,3-5

  • Imitrex® (sumatriptan) tablets or nasal spray
  • Maxalt® (rizatriptan) dissolving tablets
  • Tosymra® (sumatriptan) nasal spray


Ergots are used for moderate to severe migraine. They work by blocking pain pathways in the brain. Prescription ergots include:1,3-5

  • DHE 45® (dihydroergotamine mesylate) injection
  • Ergomar® (ergotamine tartrate) dissolving tablets
  • Migranal®, Trudhesa® (dihydroergotamine mesylate) nasal spray


Ditans are similar to triptans, but they do not constrict blood vessels. Ditans may be a better option for people with heart or blood vessel conditions. The only ditan approved to treat migraine is:1,3-5

  • Reyvow® (lasmiditan)


Gepants are chemicals that block the action of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP is a protein that sustains the migraine attack. When taken at the start of a migraine attack, gepants can reduce symptoms. Prescription gepants used as abortive medicines include:1,3-6

  • Nurtec ODT® (rimegepant) tablets
  • Ubrelvy® (ubrogepant) tablets
  • Zavzpret® (zavegepant) nasal spray

Opioid drugs

Narcotic opioid drugs may be used to treat migraine pain. But opioids are habit-forming and can cause dependence. They are used only when you cannot take or do not get relief from other drugs.1,3

Anti-nausea drugs

Drugs that treat vomiting and nausea, called antiemetics, can help if a migraine with aura causes vomiting or nausea. They are often taken along with pain relievers. Examples of anti-nausea drugs include:1,3

  • Compro® (prochlorperazine)
  • Gimoti®, Reglan® (metoclopramide)

Preventive prescription medicines for migraine

Preventive medicines help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Your doctor may prescribe this type of drug if you have severe symptoms that do not respond to abortive treatments or your migraine attacks are too frequent to take abortive treatments that often. Several types of preventive medicines require a prescription.1


Beta-blockers are commonly used to treat high blood pressure. They also can be effective migraine preventive medicines. Prescription beta blockers used to prevent migraine include:1,4,5,7

  • Inderal®, InnoPran®, Hemangeol® (propranolol)
  • Lopressor® (metoprolol)
  • Timoptic® (timolol)

Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers are also often used to treat high blood pressure and may be used for migraine prevention. However, there is not much evidence of their effectiveness. Examples used for migraine include:1,4,7

  • Calan®, Verelan® (verapamil)
  • Procardia®, Afeditab® (nifedipine)


Antidepressants are generally used to treat mental health conditions. But they also can be effective migraine prevention drugs. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) are the most common type prescribed for migraine. TCAs used to prevent migraine include:1,4,7

  • Amitriptyline
  • Pamelor® (nortriptyline)

A type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SRNI) is also sometimes prescribed to prevent migraine. These include:7

  • Cymbalta® (duloxetine)
  • Effexor® (venlafaxine)

Anti-seizure drugs

Some drugs that treat seizures, called anticonvulsants, can help prevent migraine if you have less frequent symptoms. Examples include:1,4,7

  • Depakote® (valproate)
  • Topamax®, Topiragen® (topiramate)

Botox injections

Botox® (onabotulinumtoxin A) injections into various areas of the head and scalp every 3 months may help prevent migraine. Experts do not yet know exactly how Botox works to prevent migraine.1,4,7


While some gepants act as abortive medicines, certain gepants can help prevent migraine. These include:1,4-7

  • Nurtec ODT® (Rimegepant)
  • Qulipta® (atogepant)

CGRP monoclonal antibodies

CGRP monoclonal antibodies are proteins designed to block the activity of CGRP. They are given by injection, often once a month. Examples of CGRP monoclonal antibodies include:4,5,7

  • Aimovig® (erenumab-aooe)
  • Ajovy® (fremanezumab-vfrm)
  • Emgality® (galcanezumab-gnlm)
  • Vyepti® (eptinezumab-jjmr)

Other things to know

All drugs can cause side effects, and side effects can vary depending on the specific drug you are taking. Ask your doctor about the possible side effects of any migraine drug they prescribe.

Some treatments listed here are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat migraine. They may be approved for other conditions. Doctors may prescribe them “off-label” for migraine because there has been evidence in clinical trials that they prevent or relieve migraine symptoms.1

The best source of advice about treating your migraine is your doctor or migraine specialist. Before beginning treatment for migraine, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.1

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