The researchers say that patients who have a long-term prescription for acetaminophen should be given the lowest effective dose for the shortest time possible due to the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Image: Getty Images)
People with high blood pressure who take acetaminophen regularly may be at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, a study suggests.
As a result, the researchers say that patients who have a long-term prescription for the pain reliever, typically used to treat chronic pain, should be given the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible.
According to scientists, paracetamol was supposed to be a completely safe drug to use in patients with the condition.
But their findings indicate that the effect on blood pressure is similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, which are known to increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease, and are also used to control pain. chronic.
Increased blood pressure might be expected to increase the risk of heart disease or stroke by about 20%, experts say.
They suggest the study should lead to a review of long-term acetaminophen prescriptions to patients, particularly those with the condition or those at particular risk of heart disease or stroke.
Professor James Dear, Staff Chair of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This study clearly shows that paracetamol, the most widely used drug in the world, increases blood pressure, one of the most important risk factors for heart attacks. heart attacks and cerebrovascular accidents.
“Physicians and patients together should weigh the risks against the benefits of long-term prescription acetaminophen, especially in patients at risk for cardiovascular disease.”
He added: “In summary, we have shown that two weeks of treatment with acetaminophen increases blood pressure in patients who have hypertension (high blood pressure).”
video not available
Lead researcher Dr Iain MacIntyre, consultant in clinical pharmacology and nephrology at NHS Lothian, said: “This is not about short-term use of paracetamol for headaches or fever, which is of course fine. , but it does indicate a newly discovered risk.” for people who take it regularly long-term, usually for chronic pain.
The study found that after people stopped taking the drug, their blood pressure returned to what it was at the start of the study, suggesting that the drug increased it.
The researchers said they did not have exact numbers of people in the UK who take long-term paracetamol and have high blood pressure.
But an estimated one in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure that increases with age, while one in 10 people in Scotland, where the research was conducted, take paracetamol regularly, a figure likely to be similar in other places.
In the study, 110 patients with a history of high blood pressure were prescribed either 1 g of acetaminophen four times a day, a dose routinely prescribed for chronic pain patients, or a placebo for two weeks each.
The researchers found that there was a significant increase in blood pressure in those who took the pain reliever, compared to those who took the placebo.
According to experts, the study was set up to see a very small effect on blood pressure and they were surprised to see a much larger impact.
Professor Dear suggested that research indicates the findings could affect large numbers of people.
The scientists note that a limitation of their study was that it did not look at patients with chronic pain.
But there’s no reason to think that patients taking acetaminophen for pain treatment would have a different blood pressure response than study patients, they say.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: “This research shows how quickly regular use of paracetamol can increase blood pressure in people with hypertension who already have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
“It emphasizes why doctors and patients should regularly review whether there is an ongoing need to take any medication, even something that may seem relatively harmless like acetaminophen, and always weigh the benefits against the risks.”
Dr Richard Francis, head of research at the Stroke Association, said: “High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke.
“This strong new study adds to previous research and suggests that regular acetaminophen causes blood pressure to rise rapidly in people who are already at risk for stroke and heart attacks.
“Therefore, it is important for doctors to regularly review and weigh the risks and benefits of prescribing acetaminophen.”
Dr Benjamin Ellis, a consultant rheumatologist with the Versus Arthritis charity, said many people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions use paracetamol, or medicines containing paracetamol, to help control pain.
He added: “The research demonstrates the need to develop safer medications to treat pain. It also emphasizes the importance of health services providing more and better non-medication pain management options.”
“This includes ensuring people are supported to be physically active, receiving any mental health support they need, and working with charities like Versus Arthritis to provide peer support.
“If you are concerned about the risks of pain relievers, you should talk to a healthcare professional to explore your options.”