Triptans in migraine: the risks of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and death in practice

Neurology. 2004 Feb 24;62(4):563-8. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000110312.36809.7f.


Background: Triptans are widely used to treat migraine but have been associated with stroke, myocardial infarction (MI), and ischemic heart disease (IHD) in case reports.

Objective: To estimate the incidence of stroke, cardiovascular events, and death in a migraine cohort, stratified by triptan prescription, and investigate whether the risk of these events was increased in those treated with triptans.

Methods: Migraine patients and matched nonmigraine control subjects were identified from the General Practice Research Database. Computerized records were searched for triptan prescriptions, stroke, TIA, MI, IHD, death, arrhythmia, and confounding variables. Incidence rates were calculated and migraine groups compared with controls using a Cox model, adjusting for confounders.

Results: Of 63,575 migraine patients, 13,664 were prescribed a triptan. There was no association between triptan prescription and stroke (hazard ratio [HR] 1.13; 95% CI 0.78, 1.65), MI (HR 0.93; 95% CI 0.60, 1.43), or other outcomes studied. The larger group of migraine patients not prescribed a triptan had an increased risk of stroke (HR 1.51; 95% CI 1.26, 1.82) and IHD (HR 1.35; 95% CI 1.18, 1.54) and a decreased risk of all-cause mortality (HR 0.72; 95% CI 0.65, 0.80).

Conclusions: In general practice, triptan treatment in migraine does not increase the risk of stroke, MI, cardiovascular death, IHD, or mortality. Triptans are prescribed to those less at risk of these events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / adverse effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Mortality
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / adverse effects*
  • Stroke / chemically induced*
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Sumatriptan / adverse effects
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Sumatriptan