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The pill that could save the Sox

05.12.09 at 12:58 am ET

It is called “MAXALT” and it could be a difference-maker for the Red Sox.

The pill costs about $80 a pop, goes to work in a few hours, and has meant the world to Jonathan Papelbon, with the latest example of its effectiveness coming last Wednesday.

“Before,” Papelbon said, “I probably would have to say, ‘Give me a night.’ It was bad.”

What was so “bad” was a migraine headache that hit Papelbon early Wednesday morning … hard. It was the first time this season the Sox’ closer had been afflicted by a migraine after getting one in spring training. He estimates he’ll come down with about five or six over the course of each season. And while the Sox’ closer didn’t have to pitch that night, he could have, which is a dramatic difference from years past.

Papelbon said he first started experiencing migraines back at Mississippi State, but didn’t know what to make of them. They reached a critical level in 2007 when he estimates he was made unavailable four or five games that season because of the migraines.

That’s when ‘MAXALT’ came to the rescue.

According to the drug’s Web site, clinical studies have shown that 67-77 percent of patients taking ‘MAXALT’ experienced relief from their migraine pain within two hours. All Papelbon knows is that it works for him, and usually fast.

“I was complaining about it so much,” he said, “they finally figured something out.”

Papelbon first started implementing the medicine early on in 2008 — on the advice of Dr. Larry Ronan — after going without a solution for far too long.

“There was nothing I could do,” he remembered. “I remember sometimes I would be sitting in  my house with the blinds closed eating chicken noodle soup.”

Nights like the one that came along last week are now a much gentler reminder regarding how bad it can be. Last year, for instance, he came down with a migraine just prior to a Red Sox game with the Yankees, but didn’t get a chance to take his ‘MAXALT’ tablet until the fifth inning. By then it was too late.

“I thought it would go away, and it didn’t,” Papelbon said. “And I ended up giving it up that night.”

Now he knows the drill. If that feeling — “something people don’t understand how bad it is” — comes along Papelbon has the ammunition against the migraines at the ready in a small blue box next to his locker. It has, as he explained, “meant all the difference in the world.”

Read More: Jonathan Papelbon, migraine,
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