This multicentre, double-blind, randomised, crossover study compared the efficacy, safety and tolerability of subcutaneous sumatriptan (6 mg and 12 mg) with placebo in 134 in-patients with cluster headache. Headache improvement to mild or no pain at 5, 10 and 15 min after treatment was recorded. At 10 min, headache relief was reported by 25% placebo), 49% (6 mg) and 63% (12 mg) of patients and at 15 min the results were 35% (placebo), 75% (6 mg) and 80% (12 mg) (p < 0.001 for all comparisons with placebo). The 12 mg dose was not significantly better than the 6 mg dose and was associated with more adverse events. The 6 mg dose is therefore recommended for the acute treatment of cluster headache.