Patient Preference for Triptan Formulations: A Prospective Study With Zolmitriptan


  • Andrew Dowson MBBS, PhD,

  • Michael Bundy MBBS, MRCGP,

  • Rebecca Salt RN,

  • Shaun Kilminster PhD, FFPM (Hon)

  • From the King's Headache Service, King's College Hospital, London, United Kingdom (Dr. Dowson); Cranleigh Health Centre, Cranleigh, Surrey, United Kingdom (Dr. Bundy); Merrow Park Surgery—Surrey Headache Service, Merrow, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom (Ms. Salt); and Institute of Naval Medicine, Alverstoke, United Kingdom (Dr. Kilminster).

Address all correspondence to Dr. Andrew Dowson, King's College Hospital—King's Headache Service, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK.


Objectives.—To investigate patterns of patient preference for 3 formulations of zolmitriptan, in a primary care study utilizing a naturalistic longitudinal design.

Background.—Although differences in efficacy between individual triptans tend to be small, migraine patients show clear preferences for individual triptans and formulations. The groups of patients suitable for the different triptan formulations, and the reasons underlying individual preferences, are not clearly understood.

Methods.—Migraine patients entered a prospective, randomized, open, crossover, longitudinal design study, with patients receiving zolmitriptan formulations according to UK prescribing recommendations. Patients naïve to zolmitriptan received zolmitriptan 2.5-mg film-coated tablets or 2.5-mg Orally Disintegrating Tablets (ODT) for 1 month, before being crossed over to receive the alternative formulation for Month 2. All patients then received zolmitriptan nasal spray 5 mg for Month 3. Patients could then choose the formulation(s) of their choice for a further 7 months. Patients recorded their preferences for individual formulations, the reasons for their preferences, and also the headache-related disability (measured by the Migraine Disability Assessment [MIDAS] score) at clinic visits. Primary endpoints were the individual preferences and changes in MIDAS scores. Adverse events were also recorded.

Results.—Forty-eight patients took part in the study. At baseline, most patients expressed a preference for conventional tablets. After 4 months, 46.9% of patients preferred zolmitriptan ODT, 43.8% zolmitriptan nasal spray, and 6.3% the conventional tablet. The most common reasons given for preferring conventional tablets were personal reasons: for zolmitriptan ODT, convenience and, to a lesser extent, speed of onset: for zolmitriptan nasal spray, speed of onset, and overall efficacy. MIDAS scores decreased significantly following treatment with zolmitriptan. Zolmitriptan was well tolerated.

Conclusions.—Patient experience of newer zolmitriptan formulations influenced a change in preference away from conventional tablets. Speed and efficacy were the key drivers of preference for zolmitriptan nasal spray, while convenience mostly drove preference for the ODT formulation. Open, longitudinal, naturalistic studies may, allowing for biases, sometimes be an appropriate way of conducting migraine studies in primary care.