New Inhaler for Migraines: Is This the Relief You Need?

woman headache migraine

If you've ever had a migraine, then we don't need to go into detail about how crippling they can be. But okay, we will. Think blinding pain in your head. Feeling like you're going to vomit. And just the merest bit of light or noise makes your cranium feel like it will shatter. Migraines can be treated pretty well with some prescription meds, thank goodness, but some new technology may help even more.


The FDA recently approved a new inhaler for migraine treatment that contains sumatriptan, a common medicine currently used to treat migraines. This nifty little device will be sold under the name Onzetra Xsail. (And is it just us or does that sounds like a character in a poorly written sci-fi paperback from the '80s?)

Typically, headache sufferers pop a pill, then wait for the medicine to be absorbed through the stomach, where it then narrows blood vessels in the head, stops pain signals to the brain, and also blocks the release of substances that cause nausea, etc. But Onzetra X. supposedly does all that more quickly since it sends the medication directly into the lining of your sinus cavity and, whoosh, into your bloodstream.

Unlike, say, an asthma inhaler, which requires you to breathe in the medicine through your mouth, Onzetra Xsail's a little wacky. (Just like its name.)

You breathe out into a little plastic tube while another piece is inserted into one side of your nose. Apparently, doing both at the same time closes the back of your throat and keeps the medicine at the back of your nose so it can be efficiently absorbed.

So much so that you'll probably need less medication than you would in pill form.

Sounds promising, but whether or not Onzetra Xsail will be a revolutionary treatment remains to be seen.

More from The Stir: 5 Surprising Reasons for Your Headaches

"I am not sure if this new version of an old drug will provide any benefit over the sumatriptan nasal spray, which is extremely effective," admits Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "This new device uses a medication, which has been used effectively to help migraine sufferers for decades."

Sumatriptan is already available in a pill form, as well as a nasal spray, and even as an injectable. If you've already tried it and it hasn't helped your migraines, "I doubt this new version will work," says Dr. Segil.

For people who have had success with sumatriptan, the new technology could be reasonable to try, Dr. Segil says. Although, he adds, "I wonder if the cost of using this new delivery method will provide any more benefits than the old ... method, which will cost less."


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