Frovatriptan vs Sumatriptan

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For patients suffering from migraines, certain drugs can help by altering the levels of serotonin in the brain. Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan are two such medications often prescribed for managing migraine symptoms. They both work by stimulating serotonin (or 5-HT) receptors in the brain which causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict, thereby relieving migraine headaches. While they function similarly, there are key differences between them: Frovatriptan has a longer half-life compared to Sumatriptan, meaning it remains effective for longer periods but this also translates into slower onset of relief. On the other hand, Sumatriptan works faster providing quicker relief but may require additional doses if symptoms reoccur within a short period of time due to its shorter half-life.

What is Frovatriptan?

Frovatriptan (the generic name for Frova) is a member of the triptan class of drugs, which were developed to treat migraines. It was first approved by the FDA in 2001. Frovatriptan works by constricting blood vessels around the brain and reducing substances in the body that can trigger headache pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and other migraine symptoms. It is prescribed specifically for acute treatment of migraines with or without aura in adults.

On the other hand, Sumatriptan (the generic name for Imitrex), also belongs to this class but was approved earlier than frovatriptan in 1992 as one of the original triptans. Sumatriptan functions similarly by narrowing blood vessels around the brain while also decreasing substances that cause inflammation and stimulate nerve endings causing headaches.

While both are effective at treating migraines, they have slight variations regarding dosage frequency due their different half-lives - frovatriptan has a longer half-life which means it stays active longer than sumatriptan thus requiring less frequent dosages. Side effects from these medications generally differ based on individual tolerance with common side effects being dizziness; flushing; muscle weakness; numbness or tingling sensation felt on skin.

What conditions is Frovatriptan approved to treat?

Frovatriptan is approved for the treatment of various forms of migraines:

  • Acute migraine attacks with or without aura in adults
  • Menstrual-related migraines, also known as menstrual migraines

Sumatriptan, on the other hand, is indicated for:

  • The acute treatment of migraine with or without aura in adults
  • Cluster headache episodes in adults.

How does Frovatriptan help with these illnesses?

Frovatriptan works to alleviate migraines by constricting the blood vessels around the brain. It accomplishes this by mimicking serotonin and binding to 5-HT1 receptors in cranial arteries, which causes them to narrow. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger in the brain and throughout the body, playing roles in mood, cognition, memory, sleep patterns, hunger and temperature regulation among other things. When a person experiences migraines or severe headaches it's thought that their blood vessels are expanding. Therefore frovatriptan can limit the painful symptoms of migraine attacks by causing these vessels to constrict back down closer to their normal size helping patients manage their condition more effectively.

What is Sumatriptan?

Sumatriptan, marketed under various brand names including Imitrex and Imigran, is a triptan medication that works by constricting blood vessels in the brain which helps to alleviate migraines and cluster headaches. It was first approved by the FDA in 1991. Sumatriptan functions as a serotonin receptor agonist, meaning it stimulates the action of serotonin (5-HT), specifically at its 1B and 1D receptors found on cranial arteries and nerves respectively. This leads to decreased dilation of these blood vessels thereby reducing headache symptoms. This is different from SSRIs since it doesn't inhibit reuptake but rather directly stimulates certain types of serotonin receptors.

By contrast to some other drugs used for similar conditions like frovatriptan, sumatriptan has a shorter half-life resulting in quicker relief when taken at onset of migraine symptoms but may require additional doses if symptoms persist. Its side-effect profile also differs from those seen with many SSRIs: common side effects can include sensations such as tingling or numbness, flushing, dizziness, weakness or tiredness - which are less likely with an SSRI.

What conditions is Sumatriptan approved to treat?

Sumatriptan is a potent medication approved for the treatment of:

  • Acute migraines with or without aura
  • Cluster headaches

It has been designed to target and reduce the symptoms associated with these conditions, offering relief from debilitating pain.

How does Sumatriptan help with these illnesses?

Sumatriptan is a medication that functions as a serotonin receptor agonist. It works by stimulating serotonin, a neurotransmitter that sends signals between the nerves in the brain. Migraines are thought to be partly due to an abnormality in the way these nerve signals are processed, leading to dilation and inflammation of blood vessels in the brain. By activating certain serotonin receptors, Sumatriptan can reduce this abnormal activity and alleviate migraine symptoms such as headache, nausea, sensitivity to light or sound. Compared with Frovatriptan which has a longer half-life but slower onset of action making it more suitable for prevention rather than treatment of acute migraines, Sumatriptan acts quickly within 30 minutes providing swift relief from acute migraine symptoms and thus often preferred by patients experiencing sudden attacks.

How effective are both Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan?

Both frovatriptan (Frova) and sumatriptan (Imitrex) are effective medications used in the treatment of migraine headaches, initially approved by the FDA within a decade of each other. They both fall under the category of triptans - drugs that act on serotonin receptors to constrict blood vessels in the brain and reduce inflammation.

The effectiveness of frovatriptan and sumatriptan was directly studied in several clinical trials; these two drugs exhibited similar efficacy for acute relief from migraines but differed somewhat when it came to recurrence rates. A 2001 randomized control trial found that while patients receiving either drug experienced comparable initial pain relief, those taking frovatriptan had significantly lower headache recurrence rates at 24 hours compared with those treated with sumatriptan.

A meta-analysis conducted in 2015 concluded that frovatriptan is effective for treating menstrual migraines starting from the first dose, has a favorable side effect profile over many other triptans due to its longer half-life, and is well-tolerated even at higher doses. It has been proven to be particularly useful as a preventative measure taken around menstruation cycles known to trigger migraines.

On the other hand, studies indicate that sumatriptan seems more potent than placebo when it comes to providing immediate relief from migraine symptoms, although its short half-life can lead to recurrent headaches if not managed properly. Sumatriptan is typically considered one of the top choices among triptans due to its potency and fast-acting nature. However, usage should be carefully monitored since significant research involves co-prescribing along with NSAIDs or anti-nausea medicine depending on symptom severity. While generally safe for most people when used correctly, there's less robust data supporting long term use without risk factors such as cardiovascular disease being present.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Frovatriptan typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Frovatriptan typically start at 2.5 mg/day and this is often sufficient to counteract acute migraine in most individuals. However, if there's no significant relief within two hours of the first dose, a second dose may be taken, but total daily dosage should not exceed 7.5 mg/day. On the other hand, Sumatriptan starts at a range from 25-100mg per day; yet studies have shown that for many, a 50mg dosage is effective for treating an acute migraine episode. If symptoms persist or return, another dose can be taken after two hours but the maximum daily limit should not exceed 300mg in any case.

At what dose is Sumatriptan typically prescribed?

Sumatriptan treatment is typically initiated at a dosage of 25–100 mg per episode. The dose can then be increased to a maximum of 200 mg/day, divided into two doses, if required. Each dose should be spaced at least 2 hours apart with no more than two doses taken in any 24-hour period. If there is no response to the first migraine attack treated with the Sumatriptan medication, a diagnosis of migraine should be reconsidered before Sumatriptan is administered to treat any subsequent attacks.

What are the most common side effects for Frovatriptan?

Common side effects of frovatriptan that patients may experience include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling warm or hot
  • Tingling or prickly feelings on the skin (paresthesia)
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing (feeling of warmth and redness in your face)
  • Headache, not related to a migraine attack
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Nausea

On the other hand, sumatriptan also carries some possible side effects such as:

  • Feeling heavy, tight, or pressure in any part of the body.
  • Unusual taste sensation after using oral tablet or nasal spray.
  • Warm/hot sensation
  • Burning feeling at injection site if you use subcutaneous injection.
  • Eye discomfort.

Always consult with a healthcare provider for advice about potential side effects before starting new medication.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Frovatriptan?

In rare cases, Frovatriptan can cause serious side effects similar to Sumatriptan. These may include:

  • Signs of a severe allergic reaction: difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat.
  • Heart attack symptoms: chest pain spreading to the jaw, neck or shoulder, sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech and feelings of intense nausea.
  • Serotonin syndrome - agitation, hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there), rapid heartbeat, fever, overactive reflexes and muscle stiffness/spasms/twitching.
  • High levels of serotonin in the body--agitation hallucinations fever fast heart rate overactive reflexes nausea vomiting diarrhea loss of coordination fainting
  • Stroke-like symptoms – such as sudden numbness/weakness/severe headache/unsteadiness
  • Blood circulation issues in intestines & extremities including unusual stomach pain/cramps/discomfort/ cold hands or feet

If you experience these effects while taking Frovatriptan seek medical attention immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Sumatriptan?

Sumatriptan, another medication used to treat migraines, can have side effects that include:

  • Sensations of tingling or numbness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Fatigue and feelings of weakness
  • Flushing or feeling unusually warm
  • Discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, or throat
  • Pressure sensation in any part of the body
  • Sleepiness/fatigue
    Note: It's critical not to mistake these side effects for a heart attack. If you experience symptoms like severe chest pain and shortness of breath while taking Sumatriptan, seek immediate medical attention.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Sumatriptan?

While Sumatriptan is generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience severe side effects. These can include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, itching or skin rash; fever; difficulty breathing; swelling in your face, lips, tongue or throat.
  • Changes in heartbeat patterns: racing heartbeats or slow heartbeats.
  • Chest discomfort that feels like heavy pressure, pain spreading to the jaw or shoulder, nausea and sweating.
  • Sudden and severe stomach pain with bloody diarrhea
  • Blood circulation problems to your legs and feet (may feel coldness in these areas accompanied by pale skin)
  • Seizures (convulsions)

Should you encounter any of these symptoms while taking Sumatriptan, discontinue use immediately and seek medical attention.

Contraindications for Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan?

Both Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan, like most other migraine medications, may worsen symptoms of migraines in some people. If you notice your headaches worsening or the frequency increasing after starting these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Frovatriptan nor Sumatriptan should be taken if you are taking or have recently taken monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. Always inform your physician about all the medications you are currently on; MAOIs will require a period of about two weeks to clear from your system to prevent dangerous interactions with both Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan.

Moreover, people with certain conditions such as uncontrolled hypertension, ischemic heart disease, stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), hemiplegic or basilar migraine should not use these drugs due to potential risks associated with their vasoconstrictive effect.

How much do Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 9 tablets of Frova (Frovatriptan, 2.5 mg) averages around $350, which works out to approximately $38 per day, if taken daily.
  • The price for 9 tablets of Imitrex (Sumatriptan, 100 mg) is about $180, working out to roughly $20 per day.

Thus, if you require frequent usage and higher dosages within recommended limits for migraine relief with Frova or Imitrex i.e., not exceeding two doses in a 24 hour period), then brand-name Imitrex tends to be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. It's important to note that cost should not be the primary consideration in determining which drug is right for you.

For the generic versions of Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan costs are significantly lower:

  • Generic Sumatriptan (100 mg tablets) is available in packs starting from 6 up to as high as 60 tablets with prices ranging from around $1.50 - $4.00 per tablet making it between roughly $3-$8/day depending on frequency/dosage (not exceeding two doses in a day).

  • Generic Frovatriptan pricing can vary greatly but generally comes in packaging sizes starting at six tablets and going upwards costing about approximately anywhere between $7-$15/tablet translating into an estimated cost range of about ~$14 - ~$30/day based off maximum allowed dosage guidelines.

Popularity of Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan

Frovatriptan, under the brand name Frova, and sumatriptan (Imitrex), are both members of the triptan class of drugs designed to treat migraines.

Sumatriptan has been available for a longer period and is more extensively used; it was prescribed to approximately 2.3 million people in the US in 2020. Sumatriptan accounted for roughly 21% of all migraine prescriptions last year, holding a significant presence among specific migraine medications due to its effectiveness and affordability.

On the other hand, frovatriptan was estimated to have been dispensed to about half a million individuals in the same year. Although less prevalent than sumatriptan, frovatriptan's usage seems steady over recent years possibly because it offers advantages like having one of the longest half-lives among triptans which can help reduce recurrence rates for some patients' migraines.


Both Frovatriptan and Sumatriptan have a well-established history of use in the management of migraine headaches. Several clinical studies and meta-analyses verify their efficacy, suggesting that they are more potent than placebo treatments. Both drugs work by constricting blood vessels around the brain and blocking pain pathways in the brain.

Frovatriptan has a longer half-life compared to Sumatriptan, which means its effects last longer. It is often used for menstrual migraines due to this characteristic. On the other hand, Sumatriptan acts faster but its effects do not last as long.

Both medications come in generic forms offering significant cost savings especially for patients paying out-of-pocket expenses. The onset of relief from migraine symptoms may not be immediate with either drug; hence an adjustment period might be required.

The side effect profile is similar between these two medications, both being generally well-tolerated with few adverse events reported. However, like all triptans, they should not be taken by individuals with certain heart conditions or uncontrolled high blood pressure without first consulting a healthcare provider due to potential cardiovascular risks.