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Migraine Sufferers Scramble for Relief After Excedrin Recall

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was about six months ago when Erin Terjesen opened up her medicine cabinet and realized, to her horror, that she was out of the medication she relied on to keep her headaches from turning into full-blown migraines.

A few minutes later, she stumbled into her pharmacy to search for the medication -- Excedrin Migraine -- but learned there was none in stock.

Her pharmacist told her that the manufacturer, Novartis, had announced a massive recall of its Excedrin, No-Doz, Bufferin and Gas-X products on Jan. 8.

Six months later, store shelves are still Excedrin-free.  Novartis attributed the recall to problems at its Nebraska plant that could have led to contamination by other medications produced there.

In a statement, Novartis said it was "working very hard to return products to store shelves."  The company plans to restart production on a "line-by-line, product-by-product basis" to assure quality, and hopes to start restocking some products in the second half of the year.

There is no word yet on which of the recalled products will be manufactured first.

"The pharmacist recommended the store brand, but it made me super sick," Terjesen said.  "I wasn't sure if I got sick because the migraine was so advanced and the nausea was part of it, but I took it a few other times after that and it just doesn't work for me."

She's tried prescription medications that also don't work.  She does still take the generic brand, keeps caffeinated soda on hand and also tries nonmedical remedies such as keeping her feet elevated and using a wet towel over her eyes and head, but nothing works as well as Excedrin Migraine did.

And others feel the same.  Many migraine sufferers swear by their Excedrin Migraine.  Some openly pine for it on Twitter and Facebook.  Others are turning to eBay to scoop up whatever stock is available at hugely inflated prices.

Experts who specialize in headache treatment say there are few nonprescription medication choices available, but there are some alternatives that may work for some people.

One Excedrin Migraine pill consists of 250 milligrams of aspirin, 250 milligrams of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and 65 milligrams of caffeine.  A generic substitute could work just as well.

"If it has the same amount of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine, the ingredients in Excedrin, it should work just as well," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' Chief Health and Medical Editor.

The generic store-brand alternatives work for some people, but not for others.

Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, said it may also help to simultaneously take each of the separate ingredients in approximately the same doses as what's contained in an Excedrin Migraine pill.  But taking the ingredients separately doesn't work for everyone, either.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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