Imitrex vs Maxalt

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For patients suffering from migraines, certain drugs that alter the levels of chemicals in the brain linked to pain and blood vessel inflammation can help manage symptoms. Imitrex and Maxalt are two such medications prescribed for treating migraine attacks. Both of these drugs belong to a class referred to as triptans which affect serotonin (a neurotransmitter) levels in the brain helping to relieve headache, nausea, sensitivity to light/sound caused by migraines. Imitrex (Sumatriptan), works by narrowing blood vessels around the brain and affects certain nerves in the brain reducing migraine symptoms. On the other hand, Maxalt (Rizatriptan) functions similarly but has been found more effective than sumatriptan at relieving associated symptoms like phonophobia or photophobia during acute migraine episodes.

What is Imitrex?

Sumatriptan (the generic name for Imitrex) was the first drug of its kind in a group known as triptans, which revolutionized acute treatment of migraine. Sumatriptan received FDA approval in 1992. Imitrex works by stimulating serotonin receptors in the brain to reduce inflammation and constrict blood vessels, thereby stopping the headache or migraine. It's prescribed for relief from severe migraines and cluster headaches.

Rizatriptan (Maxalt), another member of the triptans family approved by FDA later, functions similarly to sumatriptan but has been reported to act faster with fewer side effects. Maxalt also stimulates serotonin receptors leading to decreased dilation of blood vessels in the brain, offering respite from debilitating headaches.

Both these drugs are selective serotonergic receptor agonists with little or no effect on dopamine or norepinephrine receptors which results in them having fewer side effects than other anti-migraine medications that have pronounced influence on these two other neurotransmitters.

What conditions is Imitrex approved to treat?

Imitrex and Maxalt are approved for the treatment of different symptoms associated with migraines:

  • Acute migraine attacks with or without aura in adults
  • Migraine headaches that occur episodically
  • They may also be used to treat cluster headaches (in the case of Imitrex)

Please note these medications are not intended to prevent future migraines.

How does Imitrex help with these illnesses?

Imitrex helps to manage migraines by stimulating serotonin (5-HT) receptors in the brain, which causes the blood vessels to constrict. It does this by mimicking serotonin and binding with these receptors, essentially tricking them into responding as they would to serotonin itself. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that acts as a messenger in the brain and throughout the body. Its role in migraines is somewhat complex but it's thought that low levels of serotonin can lead to dilation of blood vessels triggering migraine headaches. Therefore, by stimulating these 5-HT receptors, Imitrex can limit the negative effects of migraines and help patients manage their condition more effectively.

What is Maxalt?

Maxalt is a brand name for rizatriptan, which is a serotonin receptor agonist specifically used in the treatment of migraines. It works by narrowing blood vessels around the brain and affects certain nerves in the brain to relieve pain. Rizatriptan was first approved by the FDA in 1998. Unlike Imitrex (sumatriptan), it does not prevent future migraines or reduce how often you get migraine attacks but rather helps manage migraine symptoms.

Maxalt can make you feel tired or sleepy, so it's important to take precautions when driving or operating machinery until you know how this medicine will affect you. Other common side effects include feeling warm or cold, lack of energy, heavy sensations, pressure in the chest or throat and numbness or tingling sensation in parts of your body – these are usually mild and short-lived.

The effects on serotonin can be beneficial for treating acute migraine headaches with or without aura, especially if taken as soon as possible after headache pain begins. This benefit has been observed even in patients who do not respond well to other "typical" migraine treatments like Imitrex.

What conditions is Maxalt approved to treat?

Maxalt is an FDA approved medication that has been found to be effective in the treatment of:

  • Acute migraine attacks with or without aura
  • Cluster headaches

This drug often provides relief within two hours for many patients and can significantly improve quality of life by reducing the frequency, duration, and severity of migraine episodes.

How does Maxalt help with these illnesses?

Maxalt is a triptan medication that plays an important role in the treatment of migraines by influencing serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in many processes in the brain. Migraine headaches are believed to be partly caused by dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Maxalt works by stimulating serotonin receptors, which cause these blood vessels to constrict and thus alleviate migraine symptoms. Its influence on other biochemical mechanisms related to pain may also play roles in its effectiveness as a migraine therapy. Although Imitrex is another choice for treating migraines—and it operates along similar principles—Maxalt's potential quicker onset of action could make it more suitable for some patients experiencing sudden and severe attacks. Additionally, compared with Imitrex, Maxalt might have less side effects which makes this drug often prescribed when patients do not respond well or tolerate other “typical” triptan medications such as Imitrex.

How effective are both Imitrex and Maxalt?

Both sumatriptan (Imitrex) and rizatriptan (Maxalt) are effective treatments for migraines, with established histories of success since their initial FDA approvals in the 1990s. As they both belong to a class of drugs known as triptans, which work by narrowing blood vessels around the brain to stop pain signals from being sent to the brain, they may be prescribed under similar circumstances. The effectiveness of Imitrex and Maxalt in alleviating migraine symptoms was directly studied in multiple double-blind clinical trials; these two drugs exhibited similar efficacy in managing symptoms of migraines such as headache pain, nausea, sensitivity to light/sound.

A review on sumatriptan demonstrated that it is effective at relieving acute migraine symptoms within 2 hours of oral administration, providing significant relief for many patients compared with placebo. Its side effect profile is favorable over other many older migraine medications and it has been shown to be well-tolerated even among different age groups. Sumatriptan has become one of the most widely used prescription medications for migraines globally due its proven reliability.

Rizatriptan also exhibits high efficacy rates with a rapid onset action offering relief within 2 hours post ingestion. It's considered extremely suitable for use as an abortive treatment during a migraine attack owing to this fast-acting nature. Like Sumatriptan, Rizatripan's adverse effects are generally mild and transient making it well tolerated amongst patients across various age brackets too.

Despite definitive similarities between them when treating acute episodes of migraines or cluster headaches there might still exist individual preferences influenced by factors such as speed-onset & duration-of-action or cost-effectiveness that could lead physicians towards prescribing either drug over another depending on patient-specific needs.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Imitrex typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Imitrex range from 25-100 mg/day, but for most adults the usual starting dose is 50 mg. If there are no significant side effects and if the migraine persists, additional doses can be taken up to a maximum limit of 200mg in a day. For Maxalt, the recommended starting dose for adults is typically 5 or 10 mg. This may be increased depending on individual response and tolerability but should not exceed more than 30 mg in any twenty-four-hour period. It's imperative to consult with your healthcare provider before changing your dosage.

At what dose is Maxalt typically prescribed?

Maxalt therapy typically begins with a dosage of 5–10 mg, which can be taken up to twice a day, spaced at least two hours apart. For those with kidney or liver problems, the starting dose is usually lowered to 5 mg per dose. The maximum daily dose is limited to 30 mg within any 24-hour period. If there's not enough response after the initial dose during an attack, further doses may be considered but it should always remain within the prescribed limit for each day and you must observe at least two hours gap between successive doses.

What are the most common side effects for Imitrex?

Potential side effects of Imitrex and Maxalt can vary, but some common ones include:

  • Sensations such as tingling, warmth/coldness, or pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or fatigue (asthenia)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck pain/stiff neck
  • Flushing (redness in the face)
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling hot/cold differently than usual
  • Heaviness sensation in parts of the body

Remember that these are potential side effects - it doesn't mean you'll necessarily experience them. If any symptoms persist or become troublesome, consult with your healthcare provider to discuss possible adjustments to your medication regimen.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Imitrex?

While Imitrex and Maxalt treat similar conditions, they can have different side effects. For Imitrex, these can include:

  • Signs of heart attack or stroke: chest pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder, sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Changes in vision
  • Severe stomach pain and bloody diarrhea
  • An allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat

Maxalt also has its unique side-effects that may manifest in some people like:

  • Heart attack symptoms - chest pain or pressure radiating to your jaw/shoulder along with sweating
  • High serotonin levels leading to agitation fever hallucinations nausea vomiting racing heartbeat muscle stiffness shivering loss of coordination/diarrhea
  • Stroke symptoms – sudden numbness especially on one side of the body severe headache slurred speech problems with vision/balance.

Regardless of which medication you are taking if any serious adverse effects are experienced seek immediate medical assistance.

What are the most common side effects for Maxalt?

Common side effects associated with Maxalt include:

  • Dizziness or drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting, dry mouth
  • Sensations of tingling or numbness
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Increased sweating, flushing
  • Palpitations, chest pain, tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  • Feeling anxious or jittery

Are there any potential serious side effects for Maxalt?

Maxalt, like all medications, may cause certain side effects. Some of the more severe ones include:

  • Symptoms indicative of a heart attack such as chest pain or pressure, pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder area, nausea and sweating
  • Signs of a stroke including sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, slurred speech
  • High levels of serotonin in the body--agitation, hallucinations, fever, fast heart rate, overactive reflexes
  • Heart rhythm problems--fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Unusual mood changes or behaviors including feeling agitated or restless.

If you experience any such symptoms while taking Maxalt it is important that you seek immediate medical assistance.

Contraindications for Imitrex and Maxalt?

Both Maxalt and Imitrex, like many other migraine medications, can cause serious side effects in some people. If you notice your symptoms worsening or experiencing chest pain, sudden/severe stomach pain, shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat after taking these drugs, please seek immediate medical help.

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

How much do Imitrex and Maxalt cost?

For the brand-name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 9 tablets of Imitrex (100 mg) averages around $160, which works out to approximately $17.78 per dose.
  • The price for 9 tablets of Maxalt (10 mg) is about $185, averaging roughly $20.56 per dose.

Hence, if you are in need of frequent dosages, then brand-name Imitrex could be less expensive on a per-dose basis than Maxalt. However, cost should not be your primary consideration when determining which drug is most suitable for you.

Regarding their generic counterparts:

  • Sumatriptan (generic version for Imitrex and available in strengths from 25mg to 100mg) costs between $15 and $70 for a pack size varying from 6 to 9 tablets; this translates into an estimated cost range of $1.67 - $12 per day based on frequency and strength used.
  • Rizatriptan (generic version for Maxalt with dosage options from 5mg to 10mg) has prices ranging between approximately$30 to$90 dollars for pack sizes spanning from six up till eighteen pills; hence it can hit your wallet at rates between nearly two dollars ($2) up towards five dollars ($5) every single day depending upon the dosage taken as well as frequency required.

These numbers indicate that sumatriptan could possibly be more economical compared with rizatriptan when considering generics however individual response plus effectiveness ought always remain key factors during any final decision-making process relating prescription medications.

Popularity of Imitrex and Maxalt

Sumatriptan, in generic form as well as brand names such as Imitrex, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 2.7 million people in the US in 2020. Sumatriptan accounted for just over 15% of prescriptions for migraine medication in the US. It is a specific type of drug known as a triptan and works by constricting blood vessels around the brain which helps to alleviate migraine symptoms.

Rizatriptan, including brand versions such as Maxalt, was prescribed to approximately 1 million people in the USA during the same period. In terms of prescriptions for migraine medications in America, rizatriptan makes up just under 7%. Like sumatriptan, rizatriptan also falls into the category of triptans but is often favored due to its rapid onset action compared with other drugs within this class. The prevalence use of both these medications has remained relatively steady over recent years.


Both Imitrex (sumatriptan) and Maxalt (rizatriptan) have a strong history of being effective in treating migraine headaches, supported by numerous clinical trials indicating that they are more efficient than placebo treatments. They could be used together only under strict medical supervision due to their similar mechanisms of action - both work by activating serotonin receptors in the brain which constricts blood vessels and reduces inflammation to alleviate headache pain.

The choice between these two drugs largely depends on individual patient factors. Imitrex is considered versatile because it comes not only as a tablet but also as an injection or nasal spray for those who can't tolerate oral medication during migraines. On the other hand, Maxalt is often chosen for its faster onset of action compared to Imitrex.

Both medications are available in generic form, offering significant cost savings especially for patients without insurance coverage. Adjusting dosage may be required based on individual response and tolerability.

The side effect profile is comparable between these two medications with common side effects including dizziness, warmth or redness under the skin, tingling or prickling sensation, chest/jaw/neck tightness and pressure sensation. Patients must keep track of their symptoms when starting treatment and seek immediate medical help if they notice any severe reactions like heart attack symptoms or stroke signs.