Skip to Main Content Skip to Site Map Skip to Accessibility Statement Migraine prophylaxis

1st choicePropranolol tablets 10mg, 40mg, 80mg, 160mg

Propranolol m/r capsules 80mg, 160mg
2nd choice

Topiramate tablets 25mg, 50mg, 100mg

Highly effective contraception is required prior to initiation in women of childbearing age

(NB withdraw topiramate gradually)

Prescribing Notes

  • Refer to NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries Migraine for more comprehensive information including further preventative treatment choices
  • The aim of preventive treatment is to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of attacks and avoid medication-overuse headache (MOH)
  • Consider preventive treatment if:
    • Migraine attacks are having a significant impact on quality of life and daily function e.g. occurring frequently (more than 1 attack per week on average) or are prolonged and severe despite optimal treatment
    • The person is at risk of MOH due to frequent use of acute drugs
    • Standard analgesia and triptans are contraindicated or ineffective
  • It is essential to rule out MOH before preventive treatment is initiated. If MOH is suspected then the appropriate management is drug withdrawal rather than prevention
  • Propranolol is suitable for people with coexisting hypertension or anxiety. It is not suitable for people with asthma, COPD, peripheral vascular disease or uncontrolled heart failure
  • Advise women and girls of childbearing potential that topiramate is associated with a risk of fetal malformations and can impair the effectiveness of hormonal contraception – see MHRA. Ensure suitable contraception is offered –see FSRH
  • If both topiramate and propranolol are ineffective (after two months of therapy at the target dose) or are unsuitable, refer to NICE CKS Migraine or BASH Guidelines for information on other drug treatment options including amitriptyline and candesartan. If there is no benefit with an adequate trial of 3 prophylactic medicines and withdrawal of overused medication, consider referral to headache services for further management
  • Treatment is considered to have failed if there is lack of response to the highest tolerated dose after 8-12 weeks of treatment
  • Prophylaxis should be given for approx. 6 months, then consider gradual drug withdrawal
  • Pizotifen and clonidine have been widely used for many years but with little clinical trials evidence of efficacy. They should now be superseded


  • Prescribe with caution in people at risk of metabolic acidosis.
  • Topiramate has been associated with acute myopia with secondary angle-closure glaucoma, typically occurring within 1 month of starting treatment. Seek specialist advice and stop topiramate as rapidly as feasible.