OTC Painkillers and Hypertension?Problematic in Women

Published Online: Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen may raise blood pressure by blocking production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that can widen blood vessels, according to speculation at the heart of a study published in last month?s Archives of Internal Medicine. The study involved more than 80,000 women. It found that, over 2 years, women who reported taking acetamino-phen 22 days a month or more were twice as likely to develop hypertension as women who did not use the drug. Those who took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines that frequently were 86% more likely to develop hypertension than nonusers.

However, even the authors of the study admit that relying on mail-in questionnaires instead of clinical measurements casts a shadow on the findings. ?If people have chronic pain, and they need analgesics, I would tell them to take them,? said Harvard?s Dr. Gary C. Curhan, the study?s lead author. ?Not everybody who takes these [drugs] gets hypertension?[but] given that these medications are readily available over the counter and are used by a large proportion of the adult population, this association merits further study.?

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