Migraine Treatment Being Phased Out

Media release

20 November 2019

A migraine treatment used for the past 50 years will no longer be approved for use in New Zealand from May next year in line with other countries such as Australia and many countries in Europe.

The Medicine, called Cafergot, is no longer regarded as a suitable treatment as there are now other better treatments available.
Cafergot contains ergotamine as its active ingredient, mixed with caffeine to aid absorption.

Medsafe Group Manager Chris James says the medicine has dated and limited evidence of effectiveness and recent more extensive evidence of adverse events – including fibrosis or internal scarring.

An expert group – the Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee – asked Medsafe to review the benefits and risks of the medicine after a recent case suspected of linking the medicine’s use with pancreatitis – something not seen before.

The current advice about Cafergot’s use is that it should only be used in individuals with migraine where other medicines are ineffective, it has many side effects including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps and shouldn’t be used more than twice each month.

Less common, but  more serious adverse effects are fibrosis and the restriction of blood flow in fingers in toes, which in severe cases can lead to gangrene and amputation.

The review recommended removing approval for the medicine to be sold here and Medsafe is now notifying health professionals that the medicine will no longer be available from May next year.

Mr James says the long lead-in time is to allow patients currently taking this medicine to switch to other more effective, safer medicines.

Medsafe advise that any patient concerned about their medicine should continue taking it until they’ve talked to their doctor.

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