Eletriptan is an acute migraine medication which can be taken to relieve symptoms during a migraine attack. It belongs to a class of medications called triptans.

There are many different treatment options and management strategies available for migraine, so it can be helpful to know what they are before speaking to your doctor or pharmacist. This article will help you better understand eletriptan as one of your treatment options.

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This article is sponsored by Viatris and has been medically reviewed. Last updated July 10, 2024.

What is eletriptan?

Eletriptan is part of a class of medications called ‘triptans’, which belong to a group of drugs called serotonin agonists. Triptans were specifically developed as an acute migraine treatment, targeting the underlying processes that cause symptoms during a migraine attack (1). This sets them apart from other acute treatments such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Migraine is a complex brain disorder that causes recurrent attacks involving head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and/or sound (1). Attacks can last between 4-72 hours and are often disabling.

Eletriptan can be taken to reduce symptoms when you start to experience a migraine attack. Your doctor may recommend trying eletriptan if you do not respond to over-the-counter medications.

Image of Relpax packaging, the brand name version of Eletriptan.

Eletriptan at a glance

Active ingredientEletriptan
Brand name & manufacturerRelpax® Migraine (Viatris)
Dosage40mg per dose (max 80mg per day). Different dosages for S4 (prescription only) product.
AvailabilityS3 (pharmacist only) 2 x 40mg tablets, S4 for other strengths and quantities.
Cost per packetS3: Approximately $10.99, depending on pharmacy. S4: cost depends on various factors, e.g. PBS patient copayment.
PBS Status?S3: not PBS-listed. S4: PBS-listed.

Cost and access in Australia

Eletriptan tablets are available in Australia for people who are diagnosed with migraine. It is available over the counter and on prescription.

Since February 2021, lower strengths and quantities of eletriptan have been permitted to be supplied as a schedule 3 (pharmacist-only) medication (2). Patients are now able to purchase 2 x 40mg tablets without a prescription, after speaking to a pharmacist. This is helpful in a number of situations:

  • If over-the-counter analgesics alone are inadequate in treating your migraine symptoms;
  • While travelling;
  • If you run out of medication before your next appointment;
  • If you experience migraine very rarely;
  • Or any other time that you don’t have your medication with you / aren’t able to access a prescription.

This is a positive step forward for equitable access to migraine medication. These smaller packets are not covered under the PBS and are approximately $10.99 depending on the pharmacy.

Multiple strengths and greater quantities of eletriptan tablets are available on prescription only, which you will need to get from your doctor. These doses and quantities are covered under the PBS, and the cost depends on various factors e.g. patient copayment.

How eletriptan works

Eletriptan belongs to a class of drugs called ‘triptans’, which are acute medications developed specifically to treat migraine pain. However, they aren’t ‘painkillers’ in the same way as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Triptans target the underlying processes that cause migraine symptoms. In the 1990s, researchers discovered that serotonin played a pivotal role in migraine attacks (1). This led to the development of triptans, which selectively activate the 5-HT1B and 5-HT1D receptors (1). This stops two of the processes that occur during a migraine attack:

  • Dilation of blood vessels. Dilated blood vessels contribute towards the pain of a migraine attack. When the 5-HT1B receptor is activated, it helps to constrict (narrow) your blood vessels. 
  • Activation of trigeminovascular system. The trigeminal nerves usually release proinflammatory proteins during a migraine attack, which causes migraine pain. Activation of the 5-HT1D receptor stops these proinflammatory proteins from being released.

Eletriptan is a highly selective serotonin agonist compared to other triptans. In other words, it activates receptors that help stop proinflammatory substances and blood vessel dilation during a migraine attack. Studies have shown that eletriptan causes the most potent activation in 5-HT1D receptors, and is among the most potent at 5-HT1B receptors (1,3). However, there are many different factors that affect how well you respond to different triptans, so this does not necessarily mean that eletriptan is the best triptan for everyone (4).

Eletriptan is only effective for migraine attacks, and can’t be used to treat other conditions or other headache disorders. Triptans also can’t be used to prevent migraine attacks from occurring.

Diagram showing the mechanism of action for triptans, with a graphic of inflammatory proteins being blocked and a graphic of blood vessels being constricted.

Dosage and administration


Eletriptan is available as tablets in a 40 mg strength over the counter; multiple strengths are available on prescription. The recommended dosing instructions for S3 eletriptan are as follows:

  • Take 1 tablet of eletriptan 40 mg.
  • Do not take more than 2 tablets (i.e. 80 mg) in one day.
  • If you have problems with your kidneys, do not take more than 1 tablet a day.

Prescription eletriptan has different dosing recommendations.

If you take too much eletriptan, you may need urgent medical attention, as this could cause serious heart problems. In this case, you should immediately phone the Poisons Information Centre (13 11 26), contact your doctor, or go to the emergency department at your nearest hospital (5).


It is generally recommended to take eletriptan as soon as possible after the start of the migraine attack (5). If you experience migraine aura, you should wait until the headache phase begins, as it may be ineffective if taken during the aura phase (6). However, if you aren’t able to take it at the beginning of your attack, it will still provide some relief if taken later (5). 

Other important guidelines for when and how to take eletriptan include (5):

  • Swallow the tablets whole with a full glass of water, either with or without food.
  • Do not take a second dose of eletriptan within 2 hours of taking the first dose.
  • If, after initial relief, your migraine comes back, take a second tablet. In this case, wait at least 2 hours between the first tablet and the second.
  • If eletriptan does not relieve your migraine, do not take a second dose for the same attack.
  • You may take something else for the pain, but do not take medicine containing ergotamine, dihydroergotamine or methysergide for at least 24 hours before or after taking eletriptan.
  • Eletriptan will not prevent a migraine attack. If you take it before you get the headache, it will not be effective.

This medication is not available in any other formulations (such as a wafer, nasal spray, or injection). If you experience severe nausea due to the migraine attack and find it difficult to take tablets, you should speak to your doctor about other medication options, or combining eletriptan with an anti-nausea medication.

How effective is eletriptan?

Eletriptan has demonstrated a consistent and significant clinical efficacy for migraine treatment in multiple clinical trials (4). It has been tested in different dosages against placebo and other medications.

One study evaluated the efficacy of different types and formulations of triptans in a systematic review and meta-analysis (7). The table below shows the proportion of patients achieving specific pain outcomes for eletriptan compared to placebo, paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) (7).

Medication2-hour headache relief2-hour freedom from painUse of rescue medications
20mg tablet eletriptan tablet52.5%28.5%24.5%
40mg tablet eletriptan tablet60.4%39.2%21.1%
80mg tablet eletriptan tablet66.2%48.0%18.1%
Source: C Cameron et al, 2015, Triptans in the Acute Treatment of Migraine: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis. DOI: 10.1111/head.12601

If you don’t find eletriptan effective, try not to be discouraged. Most people with migraine will respond to at least one type of triptan medication, with trials suggesting that it is worth trying other types if the first one doesn’t work (8). Even though all triptans work broadly in the same way, they each have some inherent differences and people may also respond differently to the same triptan. These factors will play a role in which triptan works for you (4).

Side effects

Like most medications, eletriptan may cause side effects. In most cases, they will be minor and temporary. However, more serious complications or reactions are possible that require immediate medical attention. Side effects can also vary depending on your age, other health conditions you have and other medications you take (5).

Some of the side effects are summarised below. However, other side effects not listed here may occur in some people. You should always tell your doctor or pharmacist if you notice anything that is making you feel unwell.

Less serious side effects (5)

Nervous system related:

  • Drowsiness
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Chills, pain
  • Numbness and/or tingling
  • Weakness, lack of energy

Gastrointestinal related:

  • Stomach pain or cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Indigestion
  • Tight or sore throat or difficulty in swallowing

Musculoskeletal related:

  • Muscle tightness
  • A spinning sensation
  • Back pain

Speak to your pharmacist or doctor if you have any of these less serious side effects and they worry you.

Serious side effects (5)

Cardiovascular related:

  • Chest pain or an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, which may spread to the arms or neck
  • Palpitations
  • Fast heart beat

Nervous system related:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache not relieved by eletriptan

Gastrointestinal related:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting

Allergy related:

  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue which may cause difficulty in swallowing or breathing

Call your doctor straight away, or go straight to the Emergency Department at your nearest hospital if you notice any of these serious side effects.

Warnings & Risks

Medication overuse headache

Eletriptan is not addictive, but it is associated with medication overuse headache (MOH), a condition caused by consuming too many acute medications used to treat headache. MOH can significantly increase the frequency of migraine attacks and reduce your responsiveness to acute and preventive treatments. It can also be difficult and unpleasant to reverse MOH.

The safe limit for avoiding MOH while on eletriptan (or any other triptans) is to take the medication on fewer than 10 days during any month, or 30 day period.

Please check with your doctor or pharmacist how often it is appropriate for you to take eletriptan, including if you are taking it with over-the-counter pain medicines.

Health conditions that may not be appropriate for eletriptan

All triptans, including eletriptan, can cause constriction of blood vessels (1). As a result, patients with cardiovascular disease (or signs of cardiovascular disease) are often not advised to take triptans. You may also need to consult with your doctor if you have other health conditions or lifestyle factors. Specific warnings include (5):

  • Severe liver or kidney problems
  • High blood pressure that is difficult to treat
  • If you have, or have had, heart or blood vessel disease or signs of these conditions, including: 
    • Angina, stroke, heart attack
    • Dizzy or fainting spells
    • Pains in the chest
    • Cold hands or feet
    • Pain in the calves when walking
  • If you have risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, family history of CAD, post menopause in females and age over 40 years in males.

Eletriptan is also not suitable for anyone who is allergic to it, or allergic to other ingredients in the medication, such as lactose (5). People with allergies should speak to their doctor and carefully check the ingredients of the specific medication. If you experience allergic symptoms while on the medication, you should discontinue it and immediately consult your doctor (5). You can find a full list of ingredients in the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet, which can be accessed on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website.


Some medicines interact with others, affecting how well they work or putting health at risk. Examples include some antibiotics, some medicines for treating depression and other medicines for treating migraine. It is very important that you always tell your doctor and pharmacist about all medications you are taking, including non-prescription medications, natural therapies and vitamins.

Please also refer to the relevant Consumer Medicine Information leaflet for further details.

Further information & resources

If you would like to learn more about migraine or different treatment options, you may find the following articles helpful.

  • Migraine – a comprehensive article about migraine symptoms, causes, treatments, and more.
  • Acute Migraine Medicationarticle summarising other types of acute migraine medication, including a general overview of other triptans. 
  • Viatris have also developed a website relpaxmigraine.com.au designed to improve patient understanding of migraine.
  • Treatment directory – overview article including a brief explanation of the medications available to treat migraine and different classes of treatment.
  • Sumatriptan – medication review for sumatriptan, another medication in the same class as eletriptan.


  1. G Sandrini et al, 2009, Eletriptan. DOI: 10.1517/17425250903410226
  2. Therapeutic Goods Administration, 2020, 3.2 Eletriptan. Retrieved from: https://www.tga.gov.au/resources/publication/scheduling-decisions-interim/notice-interim-decisions-proposed-amendments-poisons-standard-acms-and-joint-acms-accs-meetings-june-2020/32-eletriptan 
  3. R Bhambri et al, 2015, A review of the pharmacoeconomics of eletriptan for the acute treatment of migraine. DOI: 10.2147/IJGM.S73673
  4. M Capi et al, 2016, Eletriptan in the management of acute migraine: an update on the evidence for efficacy, safety, and consistent response. DOI: 10.1177/1756285616650619
  5. Viatris Pty Ltd, 2023, Relpax Migraine CMI. Retrieved from: https://medsinfo.com.au/consumer-information/document/Relpax_Migraine_CMI
  6. J Olesen, 2004, No effect of eletriptan administration during the aura phase of migraine. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2004.00914.x
  7. C Cameron et al, 2015, Triptans in the Acute Treatment of Migraine: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis. DOI: 10.1111/head.12601
  8. B Gilmore & M Michael, 2011, Treatment of Acute Migraine Headache. PMID: 21302868. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21302868/ 
Headache AustralianMigraine & Headache Australia is the only organization in Australia that aims to support the more than 5 million Australians affected by headache and migraine.