Sumatriptan Helps Combat Mountain Sickness

Greater than 50% relative risk reduction when the drug is taken within one hour of ascent

FRIDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Prophylaxis with sumatriptan is effective in preventing acute mountain sickness (AMS), according to a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial study published in the June 2007 issue of Annals of Neurology.

Sirous Jafarian, M.D., of Tehran University in Iran, and colleagues randomized 102 adults to receive either 50 milligrams sumatriptan succinate or placebo within one hour of ascent to an altitude of 3,500 meters. Participants were assessed for AMS using the Lake Louise AMS score.

Sumatriptan was associated with a decrease in AMS and altitude headache. Twelve participants (23.5 percent) in the sumatriptan group developed AMS, compared to 23 (45.1 percent) in the placebo group (p = 0.02). Seventeen participants (33.3 percent) who received sumatriptan reported mild to moderate headache versus 29 (56.9 percent) in the placebo group (p = 0.02). However, there was no association between sumatriptan prophylaxis and the severity of AMS or headache.

Sumatriptan was well-tolerated in this trial and may be an attractive alternative to traditional prophylactic agents which are associated with specific adverse effects. "Our results showed low-dose sumatriptan given once at early ascent to a high-altitude provides significant preventive effect against subsequent AMS and high-altitude headache with a relative risk reduction of 51.3 percent o 56.2 percent", concluded the authors.

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