Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Study links Tylenol with high blood pressure in women

DALLAS — Women taking daily amounts of non-aspirin painkillers — such as an extra-strength Tylenol (search) — are more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who don't, a new study suggests.

While many popular over-the-counter painkillers have been linked before to high blood pressure, acetaminophen (search), sold as Tylenol, has generally been considered relatively free of such risk.

It is the only one that is not a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID (search), a class of medications the federal government just required to carry stricter warning labels because of the risk for heart-related problems. Those include ibuprofen (sold as Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (sold as Aleve). Many had turned to those painkillers in the wake of problems with prescription drugs, such as Vioxx.

However, the new study found that women taking Tylenol were about twice as likely to develop blood pressure problems. Risk also rose for women taking NSAIDS other than aspirin.

"If you're taking these over-the-counter medications at high dosages on a regular basis, make sure that you report it to your doctor and you're checking your blood pressure," said Dr. Christie Ballantyne, a cardiologist at the Methodist DeBakey Heart Center in Houston who had no role in the study.

The research found that aspirin still remains the safest medicine for pain relief. It has long been known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems and was not included in the government's requirement for stricter labels for NSAIDs.The study involved 5,123 women participating in the Nurses Health Study at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

None had had high blood pressure when it began.

Personally, I've always thought the success of Tylenol was more a matter of marketing than any real advantage over aspirin. Millions have been spent over the years convincing Americans that aspirin "might" upset or damage your stomach. In fact, very few people do not tolerate aspirin without adverse side effects. Even now, Tylenol is running a new ad campaign urging people to avoid aspirin because it could be hurting their stomachs, even if there is no reason in the world to think it is.

The study's author refers to taking the medication in "high dosages", but this is deceptive. A little more detail reveals that "high dosages" have nothing to do with it:

In this study, the risk of developing high blood pressure for women who weren't taking painkillers was about 1 to 3 percent a year, researchers said. They found that that women ages 51-77 who took an average daily dose of more than 500 milligrams of acetaminophen — one extra-strength Tylenol — had about double the risk of developing high blood pressure within about three years.

Women in that age range who take more than 400 mg a day of NSAIDS — equal to say two ibuprofen — had a 78 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure over those who didn't take the drug.

Among women 34-53 who take an average of more than 500 mg of acetaminophen a day had a two-fold higher risk of developing high blood pressure. And those who took more than 400 mg of NSAIDS a day had a 60 percent risk increase over those who didn't take the pills.

I would hardly say a dose of one extra-strength Tylenol per day would consttitute a "high dosage", but according to this study, one a day doubled the likelihood of high blood pressure.

Aspirin was regarded for many years as a "wonder drug." It then became fashionable to regard aspirin as somehow old fashioned or primitive, and an entire generation was discouraged from using it, until its effect on cardiovascular health became widely known. As time goes by, and more and more "advanced" alternatives are shown to have risks and side effects, aspirin increasingly appears to actually be the "wonder drug" it was originally labelled.

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]