Acetaminophen is widely used as first-line therapy for chronic pain because of its perceived safety and the assumption that, unlike nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, it has little or no effect on blood pressure (BP). Although observational studies suggest that acetaminophen may increase BP, clinical trials are lacking. We, therefore, studied the effects of regular acetaminophen dosing on BP in individuals with hypertension.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 110 individuals were randomized to receive 1 g acetaminophen 4× daily or matched placebo for 2 weeks followed by a 2-week washout period before crossing over to the alternate treatment. At the beginning and end of each treatment period, 24-hour ambulatory BPs were measured. The primary outcome was a comparison of the change in mean daytime systolic BP from baseline to end of treatment between the placebo and acetaminophen arms.
One-hundred three patients completed both arms of the study. Regular acetaminophen, compared with placebo, resulted in a significant increase in mean daytime systolic BP (132.8±10.5 to 136.5±10.1 mm Hg [acetaminophen] vs 133.9±10.3 to 132.5±9.9 mm Hg [placebo]; P<0.0001) with a placebo-corrected increase of 4.7 mm Hg (95% CI, 2.9–6.6) and mean daytime diastolic BP (81.2±8.0 to 82.1±7.8 mm Hg [acetaminophen] vs 81.7±7.9 to 80.9±7.8 mm Hg [placebo]; P=0.005) with a placebo-corrected increase of 1.6 mm Hg (95% CI, 0.5–2.7). Similar findings were seen for 24-hour ambulatory and clinic BPs.
Regular daily intake of 4 g acetaminophen increases systolic BP in individuals with hypertension by ≈5 mm Hg when compared with placebo; this increases cardiovascular risk and calls into question the safety of regular acetaminophen use in this situation.