Eletriptan: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, and More

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 29, 2022

Eletriptan, sold under the brand name Relpax, is a medication used to treat the symptoms of migraine headaches.

It is a type of medication called a selective serotonin receptor agonist, more commonly called triptans.

Migraine headaches are common, affecting one in every five women and one in every 15 men. 

They’re more than just a headache. Migraine attacks are often accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

They can affect a person’s productivity, cause both long and short-term disability, and affect social and family life. 

Triptans are the first-line treatment for moderate to severe migraine headaches that do not respond to other painkillers. 

Eletriptan works by constricting blood vessels in the brain and preventing the brain from sending or receiving pain signals.

It also blocks the release of some substances that cause pain, nausea, and other uncomfortable migraine symptoms.

While eletriptan may help with the pain, it will not prevent migraine attacks or lower the number of headaches you get.   

In this article, I’ll discuss eletriptan and how to use it.

I’ll talk about the side effects of eletriptan, interactions it may have with other medications, and precautions to remember before taking eletriptan.

Finally, I’ll discuss risk factors to note while taking eletriptan, and talk about some alternatives to eletriptan. 

Eletriptan Dosage 

Relpax tablets contain eletriptan hydrobromide and are taken as an initial dose of 20 to 40 mg orally, once in 24 hours.

In clinical trials, more participants saw a reduced headache after taking a 40 mg dose than those on a 20 mg dose. 

An 80 mg eletriptan tablet was effective in clinical trials, but it was also associated with more side effects.

The maximum recommended single dose of eletriptan is 40 mg.

People may react to the doses differently, so your doctor will select the dose that works best for you.

How to use eletriptan 

You should only take eletriptan with a doctor’s prescription.

If your doctor confirms you have a migraine, they will most likely start you on the lowest effective dose. 

If you feel better after taking eletriptan, but your symptoms return after two hours or more, you may take another tablet.

But if your symptoms do not get better after your first tablet, don’t take a second one.

Tell your doctor how you feel after taking eletriptan. 

The maximum dose of eletriptan within 24 hours is 80 mg, but take your medication exactly as your doctor prescribes.

They’ll let you know the maximum dose of eletriptan you can take. If you take eletriptan more often than you should, your headaches may worsen. 

Your doctor may ask you to take your first dose of eletriptan in their office or any other medical facility, where they can observe you for any severe reactions to the drug. 

Eletriptan should not be taken for more than 10 days in a month.

Talk to your doctor if you need to treat more than three headaches in a month using eletriptan.

If you have concerns about this medicine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

They’ll answer any questions you might have.

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How Fast Does Eletriptan Work?

Eletriptan can take up to two hours to start working.

Medicines work differently in different people, so it may take more or less time to work for some. 

Clinical studies showed that 53.9% to 65% of participants who took 20 to 40 mg of Relpax saw a decreased headache or no headache after two hours. 

Eletriptan Side Effects 

Eletriptan may cause any of these common side effects:

More serious side effects are:

  • Chest, neck, throat, or jaw tightness
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Slow speech 
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the throat, face, tongue, lips, ankles, eyes, and hands
  • Rash
  • Itching 
  • Pain or a burning, tingling sensation in the hands or feet
  • Paleness 

If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor immediately. 

What happens when you overdose?

No severe overdose cases have been recorded.

Participants in clinical trials have taken up to 120 mg of eletriptan without significant effects.

But taking too much eletriptan is not without risks: Doing so can cause hypertension or other serious cardiovascular symptoms. 

Doctors will monitor patients who overdose on eletriptan for at least 20 hours if they still show overdose symptoms.

In severe cases of overdose, intensive care procedures are recommended.

If a person collapses, has a seizure, or has trouble breathing, they should be taken to the nearest emergency room. 

If you think you or someone you know has overdosed on eletriptan, call your doctor or call the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

You can also find more information online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help

What happens when you miss a dose?

Eletriptan doesn’t follow a daily dosing schedule, but is taken as needed.

If your symptoms don’t improve after taking eletriptan, call your doctor. 

Drug Interactions with Eletriptan

Drug interactions may impact how your medication works or worsen side effects.

If you’re taking any other medications—including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements—tell your doctor.

They’ll tell you if it’s okay to take them with eletriptan or not. 

Don’t take eletriptan if you’ve taken any of these medications in the last 24 hours:

  • Other triptans, like almotriptan (Axert), naratriptan (Amerge), zolmitriptan (Zomig), frovatriptan (Frova), rizatriptan (Maxalt), or sumatriptan (Imitrex). 
  • Ergot-type medications, including bromocriptine (Parlodel), ergoloid mesylates (Hydergine), cabergoline (Dostinex), ergotamine (Ergomar, Cafergot), pergolide (Permax), methylergonovine (Methergine), ergonovine (Ergotrate), methysergide (Sansert), or ergoloid mesylates (Hydergine). 

Don’t take eletriptan if you’ve taken any of these medications in the last three days: 

  • Clarithromycin (Biaxin), nelfinavir (Viracept), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), nefazodone (Serzone), troleandomycin (TAO), or ritonavir (Norvir).  

Tell your doctor if you stopped medications including isocarboxazid (Marplan), tranylcypromine (Parnate), phenelzine (Nardil), or selegiline (Eldepryl) in the last two weeks.

Your doctor may adjust the dosage of your medication or monitor you for side effects. 

The drug list in this article is not exhaustive, but it’s a start.

Tell your doctor about all the drugs you’re taking or have been taking recently, even those you stopped days ago. 

What to avoid when taking eletriptan

Eletriptan can make you drowsy.

Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery while taking it.

Wait until you know how the medication affects you before driving. 

Precautions Before Taking Eletriptan

Eletriptan should only be taken after a precise migraine diagnosis.

Take the medication exactly as prescribed, and ensure your doctor knows all the other medicines you’re taking. 

If your migraine gets worse after taking your first tablet, don’t take any more of it. Seek medical advice if you have chest discomfort or neck or jaw tightness after taking this medicine.

Also, tell your doctor if you experience sudden stomach pain or bloody diarrhea after taking eletriptan. 

Patients at risk of getting coronary artery disease (CAD) should receive their first dose of eletriptan in a doctor’s office where the doctor can monitor them for adverse effects.

People at risk of CAD include people with hypertension or diabetes, people on nicotine substitution therapy, people with penises over 40, smokers, and those who are postmenopausal.

Before taking eletriptan, you should know it may cause life-threatening allergic reactions like anaphylaxis.

Call your doctor if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, or notice swelling in your face, hands, or mouth after using this medicine. 

Don’t use eletriptan alone or in combination with other migraine medicines for more than 10 days in a month—doing so may worsen your headaches.

Relpax contains lactose, and patients with rare conditions like galactose intolerance, glucose-galactose malabsorption, or total lactase deficiency should not take this medicine.

You may feel dizzy after taking eletriptan.

Avoid driving and operating heavy machinery while on this medication.

Let your doctor know if you have blurred vision, trouble reading, or any changes in vision. 

Eletriptan may cause a severe condition called serotonin syndrome when taken with antidepressant medications like citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), venlafaxine (Effexor), or fluvoxamine (Luvox).

Let your doctor know if you experience sweating, shivering, abnormal excitement, fever, restlessness, or uncontrolled twitching or shaking.

This could be signs of serotonin syndrome. 

Don’t take any new medication without discussing it with your doctor. 

Risk factors

Some people with certain medical conditions should not take eletriptan.

Don’t take this medication if you have:

  • Heart failure 
  • A stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver disease 
  • Circulation problems that affect the arms, stomach, legs, or intestines
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • Hypersensitivity to eletriptan 
  • A history of cerebrovascular accident (CVA)
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Had a heart attack
  • Coronary artery vasospasm

Let your doctor know if you have any of these conditions or if you’ve had them in the past.

Taking eletriptan with any of these conditions can worsen side effects.

Eletriptan Alternatives 

There are other medications available for migraine headache treatment.

If you want an alternative to eletriptan, talk to your doctor.

They can recommend a medication that might work better for you.

Some other migraine medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen, as well as other triptans.

Experiencing migraines? Chat with a medical provider using K Health.
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When to See a Medical Provider

Contact your doctor if your headache doesn’t get better the first time you take the medication.

They may tell you to stop taking the medicine.

Visit your doctor if you notice any adverse effects or experience symptoms of serotonin syndrome or anaphylaxis. 

Talk with your doctor if you’d like to take any medication along with eletriptan or you’d like to change the medication.

Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or plan to be pregnant while taking eletriptan. 

How K Health Can Help

Get help for all your migraine medication concerns. Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is eletriptan used for?
Eletriptan is used to treat migraine headaches. It does not prevent migraines from happening, but treats ongoing symptoms. It is not used to treat cluster headaches.
Does eletriptan make you sleep?
Some people feel drowsy after taking a dose of eletriptan. Clinical trials showed that 6% of people who took 40 mg of Relpax felt sleepy afterward.
What is the difference between sumatriptan and eletriptan?
Eletriptan (Relpax) and Sumatriptan (Imitrex) are both used to treat migraine headaches in adults. Eletriptan is not used to treat cluster headaches, but Sumatriptan (Imitrex) is used for cluster headaches in its injection form. Relpax comes only in tablet form, while Imitrex comes as a tablet, nasal spray, single-dose vial of liquid solution used with a syringe, or a single-dose prefilled syringe cartridge used with an Imitrex STATdose pen.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.