This study aims to investigate usage patterns of specific migraine prophylactic medications in ergotamine and triptan patients commencing this treatment for the first time during 1 January 1992 until 31 December 1998. Usage patterns of specific migraine prophylactic drugs were evaluated for each patient by accessing data from a large prescription database and were characterized as continued, switch or stop use during the patient observation period. Several patient and medication-related factors were explored in order to identify a possible relationship with the specific usage pattern defined. Approximately 75% of the study population (n = 729) had terminated (stop or switch) prophylactic treatment after 1 year. Age < 40 years (relative risk (RR) 1.9; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2–3.2) and the concomitant use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (RR 3.2; 95% CI 1.2–5.5) or specific abortive migraine drugs resulted in a faster onset of treatment modification (switch). Overall, migraine prophylactic treatment is used for a relatively short period, probably attributable to the common limitations associated with migraine prophylaxis, such as poor compliance and/or limited therapeutic efficacy. Patterns of use can be influenced by a variety of factors, including age, type of prescriber and certain co-medication. Patient interview studies are required to clarify these issues further.