Headlines

As reported by The Hartford Courant, October 23, 2010.

Researchers Question Tylenol's Use for Heart Patients

UConn Researcher Says More Research Needed on Pain Reliever

By William Weir

For patients with certain heart conditions, Tylenol has long been a default pain reliever for doctors, but two papers this week including one from a University of Connecticut researcher question the wisdom of doing so.

The researchers warn that acetaminophen the active ingredient in Tylenol and its generic equivalents might not be much better than the drugs for which it has served as a substitute.

A study from the University Hospital Zurich concludes that acetaminophen increases blood pressure in patients with coronary artery disease to levels comparable to the drugs that doctors had been warned away from, specifically, ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxin. Ibuprofen is used in Advil and other medications, and naproxin is used in Aleve, Midol and others.

Accompanying the study in Circulation is an editorial from Dr. William White, chief of hypertension and clinical pharmacology division at UConn.

"Despite broad recommendations to use acetaminophen as first-line therapy for pain and arthritis in patients with heart and vascular disease, the agent is simply not that effective," White writes.

Simply because medications have been available over the counter for years doesn't mean we know everything about them, he says.

"One of the key things about something like this and I've been saying this for a while is that we make all these assumptions about medications that have been around a long time," White says.

White notes that the American Heart Association advises that for patients with arthritis and high blood pressure, acetaminophen is a recommended pain reliever. "How can they say that?" White says, adding that there hasn't been enough research to make such claims.

The study from Switzerland isn't detailed enough to make specific conclusions about acetaminophen's effects, White says, but it's enough to warn doctors to use caution when prescribing it.

"This kind of research makes one pause," he says. "If I have a person with high blood pressure who's borderline, I'm going to have to make sure that their blood pressure doesn't go up."