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Save Money on Sumatriptan (Imitrex/Imigran/Treximet)

I’ve been debating posting this for months. I hesitate because I doubt getting triptans without a prescription from another country by mail order is legal, even though the drug is available over-the-counter in that country. On the other hand,  knowing of a resource for inexpensive triptans and not sharing it seems unfair to readers who delay or avoid treating migraines because of the high cost of abortive drugs. I’m sharing this with the caveat that the legality is fuzzy, so you’ll have to make that ethical decision for yourself. Here’s the FDA’s stance on drug importation.

Imitrex (Imigran in the UK) and Treximet are expensive. Even though sumatriptan, the main ingredient in both, is available as a generic, it’s still tough to find it for less than $3 for a 50 mg pill. Prices for higher doses or injections skyrocket from there. If you’re looking to save on Imitrex or Treximet, check into pricing at Inhouse Pharmacy Europe, which has 50 mg tablets of sumatriptan for $1.10 each. Higher doses and injections are also available for less than in the US. Because sumatriptan is available over-the-counter in the UK, which is the jurisdiction this pharmacy operates under, you don’t need a prescription to order it.

I can’t vouch for the company directly because I don’t use sumatriptan and haven’t ordered from them myself, but this recommendation comes from a friend and longtime reader who has been ordering from the company for at least five years without a problem. She says the company is very reliable and medications are never close to their expiration date. In fact, the website tells you the expiration date of the meds they are currently shipping. Shipping is free to the US and they provide package tracking information.

If you use Imitrex, you can substitute these directly according to the strength you are usually prescribed. They are the same thing.

If you use Treximet, you can try taking sumatriptan with 500 mg of the OTC painkiller naproxen sodium (Aleve) to approximate the drug. Treximet contains 85 mg of sumatriptan, while sumatriptan only comes in 50 mg and 100 mg, so you’ll have to choose which you prefer. GSK’s marketing materials say that having the two drugs combined into one tablet is more effective than taking each one separately. But if you’re holding off on taking triptans because they’re too expensive, you may be more likely to take them early in an attack (when they’re most effective) if they don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Not needing a prescription is a double-edged sword, of course. You still need to take them judiciously and watch out for medication overuse headache. Be sure you tell your doctor how frequently you’re taking them, even though you can get them without a prescription.

If you place an order with Inhouse Pharmacy Europe, please leave a comment letting readers know what your experience is. I hope it turns out to be a helpful source for helping readers afford these pricy meds.

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OTC Triptans Possible in UK

The UK’s drug regulation agency is considering making Imigran (a.k.a. Imitrex) and Zomig available over the counter with a pharmacist’s supervision. I’m curious to learn if the decision will foretell the outcome of such an attempt with the US FDA.

By 2008, US patents will expire on more than $80 billion worth of so-called blockbuster drugs. When generics become available, name-brand drugs risk losing 80% of their market share. Drug companies need these drugs to continue generating revenue so they can continue R&D on the next round of blockbuster drugs. One of the strategies to retain market share is to make the drug available OTC.

Imigran’s UK patent expires in 2006, so it’s more than likely that GlaxoSmithKline is seeking OTC approval to keep some of their market share. Zomig’s patent isn’t about to expire, but until Relpax was released, it was the most prescribed triptan in the UK. If Imigran is available OTC and docs are prescribing Relpax more than any other triptan, AstraZeneca will have to fight to keep it’s name and market position strong.