The MHRA has determined that sumatriptan (Imigran) can be safely sold through pharmacies without a prescription for the acute relief of migraine attacks.
Triptans should be taken as early as possible in a migraine attack. Making them OTC will therefore benefit patients by making them more easily accessible, the MHRA has said.
However, many patients should not be given the drugs because of an increased cardiovascular risk.
A comprehensive checklist will be issued to pharmacists to help them identify these patients.
West Midlands GP Dr Trevor Rees, who has worked on primary care migraine guidelines, said that on the whole sumatriptan was a safe drug but there were cardiovascular risks so it should not be given to patients with hypertension or IHD.
'The checklist should help pharmacists weed out those patients for whom the drug is unsuitable,' he said.
'But there is a risk that patients will not always tell the truth or might forget things when asked questions by a pharmacist.'