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Mixed reaction as migraine drug goes OTC

By Daniel Cressey

Patients will be able to buy a

migraine drug directly from pharmacists without input from a GP after the UK drug regulator granted it over-the-counter status.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said the availability of sumatriptan OTC would allow prompter treatment of migraine and 'reduce the burden' of the disease.

Some headache experts welcomed the move as a way of dealing with the under-presentation of migraine in general practice, but GP prescribing advisers called it 'misguided'.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a member of the GPC prescribing subcommittee and a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said other important factors in managing migraine ­ such as prevention strategies, lifestyle factors and precipitating causes ­ would be missed.

'I believe unfortunately this is making the management of migraine somewhat simplistic. There are many treatment regimes that should precede the use of a triptan. I don't believe this is a good move ­ it's a misguided move,' he said.

But Dr Leone Ridsdale, reader in general practice and senior lecturer in neurology at King's College London, said: 'On the whole these moves seem to be useful. A lot of people put up with a lot of severe headache who won't come to see a GP.'

Dr Ridsdale, a GP in north London, said: 'My advice would be that if pharmacists are dispensing triptans they encourage people to go and see their GP if they are taking a lot. I hope the link will be made between the pharmacists and the GP.'

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