propranolol, Inderal, Inderal LA, Innopran XL

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is propranolol, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Propranolol is a beta-adrenergic blocking agent that is used for treating high blood pressure, heart pain (angina), abnormal rhythms of the heart, and some neurologic conditions. Examples of other beta-adrenergic blockers include metoprolol (Lopressor), atenolol (Tenormin), and timolol (Blocadren).

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are produced and released by nerves in order to communicate with each other. The released neurotransmitters attach to receptors on other cells and induce changes within the receptor-containing cells. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that is used by the sympathetic nervous system, a portion of the involuntary nervous system. Nerves of the sympathetic nervous system release norepinephrine that binds to beta receptors on other cells. Propranolol inhibits the sympathetic nervous system by blocking the beta receptors on the nerves of the sympathetic system. Since stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for increasing the rate with which the heart beats, by blocking the action of these nerves propranolol reduces the heart rate and is useful in treating abnormally rapid heart rhythms.

Propranolol also reduces the force of contraction of heart muscle and thereby lowers blood pressure. By reducing the heart rate and the force of muscle contraction, propranolol reduces the need for oxygen by heart muscle. Since heart pain (angina pectoris) occurs when oxygen demand of the heart muscle exceeds the supply of oxygen, propranolol, by reducing the demand for oxygen, is helpful in treating heart pain. The FDA approved propranolol in November 1967.

What brand names are available for propranolol?

Hemangeol, Inderal, Inderal XL, Inderal LA, Innopran XL

Is propranolol available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes

Do I need a prescription for propranolol?

Yes

What are the side effects of propranolol?

Common side effects are:

Propranolol can aggravate breathing difficulties in patients with asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema. In patients with existing slow heart rates (bradycardias) and heart blocks (defects in the electrical conduction of the heart), propranolol can cause dangerously slow heart rates, and even shock. Propranolol reduces the force of heart muscle contraction and can aggravate symptoms of heart failure.

In patients with coronary artery disease, abruptly stopping propranolol can suddenly worsen angina, and occasionally precipitate heart attacks. If it is necessary to discontinue propranolol, its dosage should be reduced gradually over several weeks.

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