Education and Decision Making at the Time of Triptan Prescribing: Patient Expectations vs Actual Practice


  • Conflicts of Interest: Within the past 4 years, Dr. David W. Dodick has served on advisory boards, has consulted for, and received travel reimbursement from Allergan, Alder, Amgen, Pfizer, Merck, Coherex, Ferring, Neurocore, Neuralieve, Neuraxon, NuPathe Inc., MAP, SmithKlineBeecham, Boston Scientific, Medtronic, Inc., Nautilus, Eli Lilly & Company, Novartis, Colucid, GlaxoSmithKline, Autonomic Technologies Inc., MAP Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Zogenix, Inc., Impax Laboratories, Inc., Bristol Myers Squibb, Nevro Corporation, Arteaus, and Ethicon – Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Todd Schwedt has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Headache Foundation, American Headache Society, and Merck, Inc. He has participated as an investigator in clinical trials sponsored by Allergan, GSK, AGA Medical, and Optinose US Inc. He has consulted for Allergan, Merck, Pfizer, Zogenix, Supernus, and MAP.
  • Funding: American Headache Society. Supported in part by a research grant from the Investigator Initiated Studies Program of Merck & Co., Inc. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Merck & Co., Inc.



Optimizing patient satisfaction with their medical care and maximizing patient adherence with treatment plans requires an understanding of patient preferences regarding education and their role in decision making when treatments are prescribed.


To assess the congruence between patient expectations and actual practice regarding education and decision making at the time a triptan is prescribed.


This multicenter cross-sectional survey was performed by headache fellow members of the American Headache Society Headache Fellows Research Consortium at their respective tertiary care headache clinics. Migraine patients who were new patients to the headache clinic and who were current triptan users (use within prior 3 months and for ≥1 year) or past triptan users (no use within 6 months; prior use within 2 years) completed questionnaires that assessed the education they received and their role in decision making at the time a triptan was first prescribed as well as their desire for education and participation in decision making when a triptan is prescribed.


Consistent with patient preference, most participants received the majority of their education about the triptan from the prescriber's office (70.2%). In descending rank order, participants most desired to be informed about how to decide if a triptan should be taken, when during the course of migraine a triptan should be taken, possible side effects, cost, and how to obtain refills. Regarding side effects, most participants preferred to receive education about the most common side effects of a triptan rather than addressing all possible side effects. Regarding triptan dosing, participants desired to be informed in descending order of importance about taking other medications with triptans, how many doses can be taken for each migraine, how many doses can be taken each week/month, what to do if the triptan does not work, and the triptan mechanism of action. The vast majority of participants (92%) preferred that the decision to prescribe a triptan be a joint decision between the patient and the provider. In actual practice, participants were not as involved in decision making as they would like to be, with patients reporting that the prescriber was the sole decision maker 55.1% of the time. Participants had confidence in their providers (87.7%) and generally felt they did a good job educating them about the triptan (71.1%).


Based on this study, it is clear that patients prefer the shared model approach to medical decision making in regards to the prescription of triptans. The majority of patients received education that was generally consistent with their desires. Patients preferred that the prescribing provider be the primary source of information. The most desired educational topics included when/if a triptan should be taken, the number of times a triptan can be taken for a single migraine, co-administration with other acute medications, and the most common side effects. Focusing on these topics should enhance patient satisfaction and may improve compliance.