Cost-effectiveness of reclassifying triptans in Australia: Application of an economic evaluation approach to regulatory decisions

Bonny Parkinson*, Mutsa Gumbie, Henry Cutler, Natalie Gauld, Virginia Mumford, Philip Haywood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Migraine is a common, chronic, disabling headache disorder. Triptans, used as an acute treatment for migraine, are available via prescription in Australia. An Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) committee rejected reclassifying sumatriptan and zolmitriptan from prescription medicine to pharmacist-only between 2005 and 2009, largely on the basis of concerns about patient risk. Nevertheless, pharmacist-only triptans may reduce migraine duration and free up healthcare resources.

Objectives: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of reclassifying triptans from prescription-only to pharmacist-only in Australia.

Methods: The study design included decision-analytic modeling combining data from various sources. Behavior before and after reclassification was estimated using medical practitioner and patient surveys and also administrative data. Health outcomes included migraine frequency and duration as well as adverse events (AEs) discussed by the TGA committee. Efficacy and AEs were estimated using randomized controlled trials and observational studies.

Results: Reclassifying triptans will reduce migraine duration but increase AEs. This will result in 337 quality-adjusted life-years gained at an increased cost of A$5.9 million over 10 years for all Australian adults older than 15 years (19.6 million). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was estimated to be A$17 412/quality-adjusted life-year gained.

Conclusions: The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio is likely to be considered cost-effective by Australian decision makers. Serotonin syndrome, a key concern of the TGA committee, had little impact on the results. Further research is needed regarding pharmacist-only triptan use by migraineurs currently using over-the-counter medicines and by nonmigraineurs, the efficacy of triptans, and the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular AEs and chronic headaches with triptans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
JournalValue in Health
Issue number3
Early online date24 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • behind-the-counter
  • cost effectiveness
  • economics
  • 5-HT receptor agonist
  • Legislation
  • nonprescription drugs
  • over-the-counter
  • prescription drugs
  • triptan


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