"What are beta blockers and how do they work?
Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are a class of drugs that works by blocking the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine from binding to receptors. "...
There have been reports of exacerbation of angina and, in some cases, myocardial infarction, following abrupt discontinuance of propranolol therapy. Therefore, when discontinuance of propranolol is planned, the dosage should be gradually reduced over at least a few weeks, and the patient should be cautioned against interruption or cessation of therapy without the physician's advice. If propranolol therapy is interrupted and exacerbation of angina occurs, it usually is advisable to reinstitute propranolol therapy and take other measures appropriate for the management of unstable angina pectoris. Since coronary artery disease may be unrecognized, it may be prudent to follow the above advice in patients considered at risk of having occult atherosclerotic heart disease who are given propranolol for other indications.
Hypersensitivity and Skin Reactions
Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylactic/anaphylactoid reactions, have been associated with the administration of propranolol (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).
Cutaneous reactions, including Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, exfoliative dermatitis, erythema multiforme, and urticaria, have been reported with use of propranolol (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).
Sympathetic stimulation may be a vital component supporting circulatory function in patients with congestive heart failure, and its inhibition by beta blockade may precipitate more severe failure. Although beta blockers should be avoided in overt congestive heart failure, some have been shown to be highly beneficial when used with close follow-up in patients with a history of failure who are well compensated and are receiving diuretics as needed. Beta-adrenergic blocking agents do not abolish the inotropic action of digitalis on heart muscle.
In Patients without a History of Heart Failure, continued use of beta blockers can, in some cases, lead to cardiac failure.
Nonallergic Bronchospasm (e.g., Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema)
In general, patients with bronchospastic lung disease should not receive beta-blockers. Propranolol should be administered with caution in this setting since it may provoke a bronchial asthmatic attack by blocking bronchodilation produced by endogenous and exogenous catecholamine stimulation of beta-receptors.
The necessity or desirability of withdrawal of beta-blocking therapy prior to major surgery is controversial. It should be noted, however, that the impaired ability of the heart to respond to reflex adrenergic stimuli in propranolol-treated patients may augment the risks of general anesthesia and surgical procedures.
Propranolol is a competitive inhibitor of beta-receptor agonists and its effects can be reversed by administration of such agents, e.g., dobutamine or isoproterenol. However, such patients may be subject to protracted severe hypotension.
Diabetes and Hypoglycemia
Beta-adrenergic blockade may prevent the appearance of certain premonitory signs and symptoms (pulse rate and pressure changes) of acute hypoglycemia, especially in labile insulin-dependent diabetics. In these patients, it may be more difficult to adjust the dosage of insulin.
Propranolol therapy, particularly when given to infants and children, diabetic or not, has been associated with hypoglycemia especially during fasting as in preparation for surgery. Hypoglycemia has been reported in patients taking propranolol after prolonged physical exertion and in patients with renal insufficiency.
Beta-adrenergic blockade may mask certain clinical signs of hyperthyroidism. Therefore, abrupt withdrawal of propranolol may be followed by an exacerbation of symptoms of hyperthyroidism, including thyroid storm. Propranolol may change thyroid-function tests, increasing T4 and reverse TS, and decreasing T^.
Beta-adrenergic blockade in patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and tachycardia has been associated with severe bradycardia requiring treatment with a pacemaker. In one case, this result was reported after an initial dose of 5 mg propranolol.
Propranolol should be used with caution in patients with impaired hepatic or renal function. Inderal LA (propranolol) is not indicated for the treatment of hypertensive emergencies.
Beta-adrenergic receptor blockade can cause reduction of intraocular pressure. Patients should be told that Inderal LA (propranolol) may interfere with the glaucoma screening test. Withdrawal may lead to a return of increased intraocular pressure.
While taking beta-blockers, patients with a history of severe anaphylactic reaction to a variety of allergens may be more reactive to repeated challenge, either accidental, diagnostic, or therapeutic. Such patients may be unresponsive to the usual doses of epinephrine used to treat allergic reaction.
Clinical Laboratory Tests
In patients with hypertension, use of propranolol has been associated with elevated levels of serum potassium, serum transaminases, and alkaline phosphatase. In severe heart failure, the use of propranolol has been associated with increases in Blood Urea Nitrogen.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
In dietary administration studies in which mice and rats were treated with propranolol hydrochloride for up to 18 months at doses of up to 150 mg/kg/day, there was no evidence of drug-related tumorigenesis. On a body surface area basis, this dose in the mouse and rat is, respectively, about equal to and about twice the maximum recommended human oral daily dose (MRHD) of 640 mg propranolol hydrochloride. In a study in which both male and female rats were exposed to propranolol hydrochloride in their diets at concentrations of up to 0.05% (about 50 mg/kg body weight and less than the MRHD), from 60 days prior to mating and throughout pregnancy and lactation for two generations, there were no effects on fertility. Based on differing results from Ames Tests performed by different laboratories, there is equivocal evidence for a genotoxic effect of propranolol in bacteria (S. typhimurium strain TA 1538).
Pregnancy: Pregnancy Category C
In a series of reproductive and developmental toxicology studies, propranolol was given to rats by gavage or in the diet throughout pregnancy and lactation. At doses of 150 mg/kg/day, but not at doses of 80 mg/kg/day (equivalent to the MRHD on a body surface area basis), treatment was associated with embryotoxicity (reduced litter size and increased resorption rates) as well as neonatal toxicity (deaths). Propranolol hydrochloride also was administered (in the feed) to rabbits (throughout pregnancy and lactation) at doses as high as 150 mg/kg/day (about 5 times the maximum recommended human oral daily dose). No evidence of embryo or neonatal toxicity was noted.
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Intrauterine growth retardation, small placentas, and congenital abnormalities have been reported in neonates whose mothers received propranolol during pregnancy. Neonates whose mothers are receiving propranolol at parturition have exhibited bradycardia, hypoglycemia and/or respiratory depression. Adequate facilities for monitoring such infants at birth should be available. Inderal LA (propranolol) should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Propranolol is excreted in human milk. Caution should be exercised when Inderal LA (propranolol) is administered to a nursing woman.
Safety and effectiveness of propranolol in pediatric patients have not been established.
Bronchospasm and congestive heart failure have been reported coincident with the administration of propranolol therapy in pediatric patients.
Clinical studies of Inderal LA (propranolol) did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients. In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of the decreased hepatic, renal or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.
Last reviewed on RxList: 10/12/2010
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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