Relpax (eletriptan) for migraines: an introduction

Relpax for migraines is the most recently-approved triptan medication. Relpax became available on the U.S. market in 2003. (Another drug, Treximet became approved more recently, however it combines an older triptan – the active ingredient in Imetrex, sumatriptan – with the pain reliever naproxen sodium.) Relpax is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a prescription drug for treating migraine with aura or migraine without aura in adults. It is not approved for prophylaxis, preventing migraine attacks.

The chemical name for Relpax is eletriptan and there is no generic version of Relpax available on the U.S. market.

How Relpax works

Migraines are believed to be caused by swelling blood vessels in the brain and the release of chemicals that lead to head pain and other migraine symptoms. Relpax, like other triptans, likely offers relief by reducing the swelling of the blood vessels around the brain and decreasing those pain-causing substances.

Relpax’s effectiveness

In most cases medications are taken to ease migraine symptoms, although they don’t always completely wipe out all symptoms of migraine attacks. Here’s a breakdown of how many patients found that Relpax worked for them, based on studies:

  • Quick relief within an hour : 30% to 38%
  • Relief within two hours : 64% to 77%
  • Pain completely gone in two hours : 29% to 50%
  • Pain completely gone two to 24 hours : 24%

Forms of Relpax available to treat migraines

Relpax only comes in regular tablets that are swallowed.

Available forms and price per dose

  • Relpax tablet 20 mg , $34
  • Relpax tablet 40 mg , $32

Source for prices: Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs 2010

Most common side effects of Relpax tablets

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea

Serious side effects

Some people who take Relpax may experience serious side effects of chest pain, tightness or pressure. If you experience this side effect, which can feel like it is spreading to the throat, neck and jaw, or shortness of breath seek medical attention immediately. The heart-related side effects are thought to be because drugs in this class cause blood vessels to contract.

Who should not take Relpax for migraines

Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or who are breast feeding should not take Relpax. Also people with hemiplegic migraine or basilar migraine shouldn’t take Relpax. People with heart disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure, circulation problems including ischemic bowel disease, those with serious liver problems, those who have had previous strokes of any kind and smokers should not take Relpax. Also patients with coronary artery disease or risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes or a strong family history of heart disease, should not be prescribed Relpax for migraines without a cardiovascular evaluation. This drug should not be used within 24 hours of taking another drug in the triptan class or taking an ergotamine-containing or ergot-type medications. Patients who have taken a MAO-A inhibitor, which is prescribed for depression, within two weeks should not take Relpax. This drug should not be used within 72 hours of treatment with potent CYP3A4 inhibitors.



As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These medication descriptions are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication regimen without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.

Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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