This headache drug may strongly reduce blood pressure

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Acetaminophen, a common painkiller familiar to many for its use in treating headaches and fever, typically comes in pill form. However, in hospital settings, it’s often administered intravenously—that is, directly into the bloodstream.

This method is preferred for several reasons: it allows the medication to work faster, enables precise control over dosage and timing, and is an option for patients who are unable to take pills.

While intravenous delivery of acetaminophen is efficient, it has been linked to an unexpected side effect: a significant drop in blood pressure. This isn’t just a concern for critically ill patients; it can affect anyone receiving the drug in this form.

Research has shown that about six out of ten very sick patients experience this drop in blood pressure, and about a third of these cases require medical intervention to manage the issue.

Despite these risks, the drug continues to be widely used because of its overall safety and reliability.

The exploration into why this drop in blood pressure occurs was led by Thomas Qvistgaard Jepps and his team at the University of Copenhagen. Their research revealed that when acetaminophen is administered intravenously, it bypasses the liver, which normally metabolizes the drug.

This deviation leads to different chemicals being produced in the body, which then interact with potassium channels. These channels are crucial in regulating blood pressure.

In their laboratory experiments, Jepps’ team was able to block these potassium channels in rats, significantly mitigating the blood pressure-lowering side effect of intravenous acetaminophen.

This finding could pave the way for improving how the drug is administered intravenously, making it safer for patients who require it in this form.

While this research is particularly relevant for healthcare providers, especially during periods when hospitalizations increase (such as the COVID-19 crisis), it is less concerning for the general public.

For those taking acetaminophen orally in the recommended doses, there is no significant risk of affecting blood pressure.

This study’s results, which provide a deeper understanding of the physiological effects of intravenous acetaminophen, are documented in the journal Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

For those interested in broader research on blood pressure, numerous studies continue to explore optimal timing for taking blood pressure medications and new treatments for managing hypertension.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about potatoes and high blood pressure, and top 10 choices for a blood pressure-friendly diet

For more information about high blood pressure, please see recent studies about impact of vitamins on high blood pressure you need to know, and the powerful link between high blood pressure and a potassium-rich diet.

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