Verapamil for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction

Verapamil is a calcium channel blocker. It is approved for treating high blood pressure, chest pain and irregular heartbeats. It is also used by some as a migraine prevention medication, although it has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that purpose. Drugs that are approved for sale in the U.S. for any use may be prescribed by doctors in an off-label manner.

Many times doctors learn of new research showing a medication is effective in treating a condition and prescribe it for their patients who have exhausted available FDA-approved treatment options.

This medication is also sold under the names:

  • Calan
  • Calan SR
  • Covera HS
  • Isoptin SR
  • Verelan
  • Verelan PM
  • Verapamil hydrochloride
  • Verapamil hydrochloride SR

How Verapamil for migraines works

It is unclear exactly how Verapamil works in the body. The same is true for many medications. Researchers believe that Verapamil relaxes the main arteries of the heart, which means the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard to deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This action may have a similar effect on the body’s activity that causes migraine attacks.

Forms of Verapamil available

Verapamil comes in immediate release tablets as well as extended release tablets and capsules.

Most common side effects of Verapamil

  • Heart failure, which means the heart is no longer pumping well
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased enzymes in the liver
  • AV block, which means the heart’s impulses are delayed
  • Change in heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Flushing, which is redness in the face, neck or upper body
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Constipation

Who should not take Verapamil for migraines

People shouldn’t take Verapamil if they have severe heart abnormalities, low blood pressure, poor heart function, certain heart rhythm problems, certain types of blockages in the heart called second or third degree atrioventricular (AV) block, rapid heart rate or any allergic reaction to Verapamil.



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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