August 11, 2022

Long-term use of paracetamol increases blood pressure and risk of heart attack: what this study says

According to a study, people with high blood pressure who take prescription paracetamol may increase their risk of heart attack and stroke. Doctors should consider the risks and benefits for patients taking it for several months, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh. Taking the painkiller for headaches and fever is safe, they point out.

Experts conducted the study on 110 patients with a history of high blood pressure and placed them on “one gram of paracetamol four times a day or a placebo for two weeks, before reversing the diet so that the placebo group received paracetamol,” The Telegraph UK reported.

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What did the study find?

Within four days, blood pressure rose significantly in the paracetamol group, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke by 20%.

Around one in 10 people in the UK are prescribed paracetamol daily for chronic pain, even as one in three adults suffer from high blood pressure.

Professor David Webb, chair of therapeutics and clinical pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “We have always believed that paracetamol was the safe alternative if we were trying to advise patients to stop taking use drugs such as ibuprofen, which are known to raise blood pressure Consider stopping the use of paracetamol in patients at risk of heart attack or stroke.

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“We recommend that clinicians start with a low dose of paracetamol and increase the dose in stages, without exceeding the dose needed to control pain. Given the substantial increases in blood pressure observed in some of our patients, it could be beneficial for clinicians to more closely monitor the blood pressure of people with high blood pressure who are starting paracetamol for chronic pain,” he said.

Principal investigator Dr Iain MacIntyre, consultant in clinical pharmacology, at NHS Lothian, said: “This is not for short-term use of paracetamol for headache or fever, which is , of course, good.”

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Is the study infallible?

Dr Dipender Gill, professor of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics at St George’s, University of London, said the study, published in the journal Circulation, found “a small but significant increase in blood pressure in a white Scottish population “but “many unknowns remain”.

“First, it is unclear whether the observed increase in blood pressure would be maintained with longer-term use of paracetamol,” he said.

“Second, it is unclear whether an increase in blood pressure attributable to paracetamol use would lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

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Case

A large US study previously found a link between long-term paracetamol use and an increased risk of heart attacks – but it could not prove one caused the other. And other smaller studies have not been able to confirm the link.

Dr Richard Francis, of the Stroke Association, said further research in people with normal, healthy blood pressure, over a longer period of time, was needed “to confirm the risks and benefits of using paracetamol more broadly”.

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