Propranolol is a nonselective beta-adrenergic receptor blocking agent possessing no other autonomic nervous system activity. It specifically competes with beta-adrenergic receptor agonist agents for available receptor sites. When access to beta-receptor sites is blocked by propranolol, the chronotropic, inotropic, and vasodilator responses to beta-adrenergic stimulation are decreased proportionately. At dosages greater than required for beta blockade, propranolol also exerts a quinidine-like or anesthetic-like membrane action, which affects the cardiac action potential. The significance of the membrane action in the treatment of arrhythmias is uncertain.
Mechanism of Action
The mechanism of the antihypertensive effect of propranolol has not been established. Factors that may contribute to the antihypertensive action include: (1) decreased cardiac output, (2) inhibition of renin release by the kidneys, and (3) diminution of tonic sympathetic nerve outflow from vasomotor centers in the brain. Although total peripheral resistance may increase initially, it readjusts to or below the pretreatment level with chronic use of propranolol. Effects of propranolol on plasma volume appear to be minor and somewhat variable.
In angina pectoris, propranolol generally reduces the oxygen requirement of the heart at any given level of effort by blocking the catecholamine-induced increases in the heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and the velocity and extent of myocardial contraction. Propranolol may increase oxygen requirements by increasing left ventricular fiber length, end diastolic pressure, and systolic ejection period. The net physiologic effect of beta-adrenergic blockade is usually advantageous and is manifested during exercise by delayed onset of pain and increased work capacity.
Propranolol exerts its antiarrhythmic effects in concentrations associated with beta-adrenergic blockade, and this appears to be its principal antiarrhythmic mechanism of action. In dosages greater than required for beta blockade, propranolol also exerts a quinidine-like or anesthetic-like membrane action, which affects the cardiac action potential. The significance of the membrane action in the treatment of arrhythmias is uncertain.
The mechanism of the antimigraine effect of propranolol has not been established. Beta-adrenergic receptors have been demonstrated in the pial vessels of the brain.
The specific mechanism of propranolol's antitremor effects has not been established, but beta-2 (noncardiac) receptors may be involved. A central effect is also possible. Clinical studies have demonstrated that propranolol is of benefit in exaggerated physiological and essential (familial) tremor.
Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism
Propranolol is highly lipophilic and almost completely absorbed after oral administration. However, it undergoes high first-pass metabolism by the liver and on average, only about 25% of propranolol reaches the systemic circulation. Peak plasma concentrations occur about 1 to 4 hours after an oral dose.
Administration of protein-rich foods increase the bioavailability of propranolol by about 50% with no change in time to peak concentration, plasma binding, half-life, or the amount of unchanged drug in the urine.
Approximately 90% of circulating propranolol is bound to plasma proteins (albumin and alpha1 acid glycoprotein). The binding is enantiomer-selective. The S(-)-enantiomer is preferentially bound to alpha1 glycoprotein and the R(+)-enantiomer preferentially bound to albumin. The volume of distribution of propranolol is approximately 4 liters/kg.
Propranolol crosses the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, and is distributed into breast milk.
Metabolism and Elimination
Propranolol is extensively metabolized with most metabolites appearing in the urine. Propranolol is metabolized through three primary routes: aromatic hydroxylation (mainly 4-hydroxylation), N-dealkylation followed by further side-chain oxidation, and direct glucuronidation. It has been estimated that the percentage contributions of these routes to total metabolism are 42%, 41% and 17%, respectively, but with considerable variability between individuals. The four major metabolites are propranolol glucuronide, naphthyloxylactic acid and glucuronic acid, and sulfate conjugates of 4-hydroxy propranolol.
In vitro studies have indicated that the aromatic hydroxylation of propranolol is catalyzed mainly by polymorphic CYP2D6. Side-chain oxidation is mediated mainly by CYP1A2 and to some extent by CYP2D6. 4-hydroxy propranolol is a weak inhibitor of CYP2D6.
Propranolol is also a substrate of CYP2C19 and a substrate for the intestinal efflux transporter, p-glycoprotein (p-gp). Studies suggest however that p-gp is not dose-limiting for intestinal absorption of propranolol in the usual therapeutic dose range.
In healthy subjects, no difference was observed between CYP2D6 extensive metabolizers (EMs) and poor metabolizers (PMs) with respect to oral clearance or elimination half-life. Partial clearance of 4-hydroxy propranolol was significantly higher and of naphthyloxylactic acid significantly lower in EMs than PMs.
The plasma half-life of propranolol is from 3 to 6 hours.
Propranolol is a racemic mixture of two enantiomers, R(+) and S(-). The S(-)-enantiomer is approximately 100 times as potent as the R(+)-enantiomer in blocking beta adrenergic receptors. In normal subjects receiving oral doses of racemic propranolol, S(-)-enantiomer concentrations exceeded those of the R(+)-enantiomer by 40 to 90% as a result of stereoselective hepatic metabolism. Clearance of the pharmacologically active S(-)-propranolol is lower than R(+)-propranolol after intravenous and oral doses.
In a study of 12 elderly (62 to 79 years old) and 12 young (25 to 33 years old) healthy subjects, the clearance of S(-)-enantiomer of propranolol was decreased in the elderly. Additionally, the half-life of both the R(+)- and S(-)-propranolol were prolonged in the elderly compared with the young (11 hours vs. 5 hours).
Clearance of propranolol is reduced with aging due to decline in oxidation capacity (ring oxidation and side-chain oxidation). Conjugation capacity remains unchanged. In a study of 32 patients age 30 to 84 years given a single 20 mg dose of propranolol, an inverse correlation was found between age and the partial metabolic clearances to 4-hydroxypropranolol (40HP-ring oxidation) and to naphthyloxylactic acid (NLA-side chain oxidation). No correlation was found between age and the partial metabolic clearance to propranolol glucuronide (PPLG-conjugation).
In a study of 9 healthy women and 12 healthy men, neither the administration of testosterone nor the regular course of the menstrual cycle affected the plasma binding of the propranolol enantiomers. In contrast, there was a significant, although non-enantioselective diminution of the binding of propranolol after treatment with ethinyl estradiol. These findings are inconsistent with another study, in which administration of testosterone cypionate confirmed the stimulatory role of this hormone on propranolol metabolism and concluded that the clearance of propranolol in men is dependent on circulating concentrations of testosterone. In women, none of the metabolic clearances for propranolol showed any significant association with either estradiol or testosterone.
A study conducted in 12 Caucasian and 13 African-American male subjects taking propranolol, showed that at steady state, the clearance of R(+)- and S(-)-propranolol were about 76% and 53% higher in African-Americans than in Caucasians, respectively.
Chinese subjects had a greater proportion (18% to 45% higher) of unbound propranolol in plasma compared to Caucasians, which was associated with a lower plasma concentration of alpha1 acid glycoprotein.
In a study conducted in 5 patients with chronic renal failure, 6 patients on regular dialysis, and 5 healthy subjects, who received a single oral dose of 40 mg of propranolol, the peak plasma concentrations (Cmax) of propranolol in the chronic renal failure group were 2 to 3-fold higher (161±41 ng/mL) than those observed in the dialysis patients (47±9 ng/mL) and in the healthy subjects (26±1 ng/mL). Propranolol plasma clearance was also reduced in the patients with chronic renal failure.
Studies have reported a delayed absorption rate and a reduced half-life of propranolol in patients with renal failure of varying severity. Despite this shorter plasma half-life, propranolol peak plasma levels were 3 to 4 times higher and total plasma levels of metabolites were up to 3 times higher in these patients than in subjects with normal renal function.
Chronic renal failure has been associated with a decrease in drug metabolism via downregulation of hepatic cytochrome P450 activity resulting in a lower "first-pass" clearance.
Propranolol is extensively metabolized by the liver. In a study conducted in 7 patients with cirrhosis and 9 healthy subjects receiving 80 mg oral propranolol hydrochloride every 8 hours for 7 doses, the steady-state unbound propranolol concentration in patients with cirrhosis was increased 3-fold in comparison to controls. In cirrhosis, the half-life increased to 11 hours compared to 4 hours (see PRECAUTIONS).
Interactions with Substrates, Inhibitors or Inducers of Cytochrome P-450 Enzymes
Because propranolol's metabolism involves multiple pathways in the cytochrome P-450 system (CYP2D6, 1A2, 2C19), co-administration with drugs that are metabolized by, or effect the activity (induction or inhibition) of one or more of these pathways may lead to clinically relevant drug interactions (see PRECAUTIONS: Drug Interactions).
Substrates or Inhibitors of CYP2D6
Blood levels and or toxicity of propranolol may be increased by co-administration with substrates or inhibitors of CYP2D6, such as amiodarone, cimetidine, delavudin, fluoxetine, paroxetine, quinidine, and ritonavir. No interactions were observed with either ranitidine or lansoprazole.
Substrates or Inhibitors of CYP1A2
Blood levels and or toxicity of propranolol may be increased by co-administration with substrates or inhibitors of CYP1A2, such as imipramine, cimetidine, ciprofloxacin, fluvoxamine, isoniazid, ritonavir, theophylline, zileuton, zolmitriptan, and rizatriptan.
Substrates or Inhibitors of CYP2C19
Blood levels and or toxicity of propranolol may be increased by co-administration with substrates or inhibitors of CYP2C19, such as fluconazole, cimetidine, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, teniposide, and tolbutamide. No interaction was observed with omeprazole.
Inducers of Hepatic Drug Metabolism
Blood levels of propranolol may be decreased by co-administration with inducers such as rifampin, ethanol, phenytoin, and phenobarbital. Cigarette smoking also induces hepatic metabolism and has been shown to increase up to 77% the clearance of propranolol, resulting in decreased plasma concentrations.
The AUC of propafenone is increased by more than 200% by co-administration of propranolol.
The metabolism of propranolol is reduced by co-administration of quinidine, leading to a two-three fold increased blood concentration and greater degrees of clinical beta-blockade.
The metabolism of lidocaine is inhibited by co-administration of propranolol, resulting in a 25% increase in lidocaine concentrations.
Calcium Channel Blockers
The mean Cmax and AUC of propranolol are increased respectively, by 50% and 30% by co-administration of nisoldipine and by 80% and 47%, by co-administration of nicardipine.
The mean Cmax and AUC of nifedipine are increased by 64% and 79%, respectively, by co-administration of propranolol.
Propranolol does not affect the pharmacokinetics of verapamil and norverapamil. Verapamil does not affect the pharmacokinetics of propranolol.
Administration of zolmitriptan or rizatriptan with propranolol resulted in increased concentrations of zolmitriptan (AUC increased by 56% and Cmax by 37%) or rizatriptan (the AUC and Cmax were increased by 67% and 75%, respectively).
Co-administration of theophylline with propranolol decreases theophylline oral clearance by 30% to 52%.
Propranolol can inhibit the metabolism of diazepam, resulting in increased concentrations of diazepam and its metabolites. Diazepam does not alter the pharmacokinetics of propranolol.
The pharmacokinetics of oxazepam, triazolam, lorazepam, and alprazolam are not affected by co-administration of propranolol.
Co-administration of long-acting propranolol at doses greater than or equal to 160 mg/day resulted in increased thioridazine plasma concentrations ranging from 55% to 369% and increased thioridazine metabolite (mesoridazine) concentrations ranging from 33% to 209%.
Co-administration of chlorpromazine with propranolol resulted in a 70% increase in propranolol plasma level.
Co-administration of propranolol with cimetidine, a non-specific CYP450 inhibitor, increased propranolol AUC and Cmax by 46% and 35%, respectively. Co-administration with aluminum hydroxide gel (1200 mg) may result in a decrease in propranolol concentrations.
Co-administration of metoclopramide with the long-acting propranolol did not have a significant effect on propranolol's pharmacokinetics.
Lipid Lowering Drugs
Co-administration of cholestyramine or colestipol with propranolol resulted in up to 50% decrease in propranolol concentrations.
Co-administration of propranolol with lovastatin or pravastatin, decreased 18% to 23% the AUC of both, but did not alter their pharmacodynamics. Propranolol did not have an effect on the pharmacokinetics of fluvastatin.
Concomitant administration of propranolol and warfarin has been shown to increase warfarin bioavailability and increase prothrombin time.
Pharmacodynamics and Clinical Effects
In a retrospective, uncontrolled study, 107 patients with diastolic blood pressure 110 to 150 mmHg received propranolol hydrochloride 120 mg t.i.d. for at least 6 months, in addition to diuretics and potassium, but with no other antihypertensive agent. Propranolol contributed to control of diastolic blood pressure, but the magnitude of the effect of propranolol on blood pressure cannot be ascertained.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 32 patients of both sexes, aged 32 to 69 years, with stable angina, propranolol hydrochloride 100 mg t.i.d. was administered for 4 weeks and shown to be more effective than placebo in reducing the rate of angina episodes and in prolonging total exercise time.
In a report examining the long-term (5 to 22 months) efficacy of propranolol, 10 patients, aged 27 to 80, with atrial fibrillation and ventricular rate > 120 beats per minute despite digitalis, received propranolol hydrochloride up to 30 mg t.i.d. Seven patients (70%) achieved ventricular rate reduction to < 100 beats per minute.
The Beta-Blocker Heart Attack Trial (BHAT) was a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute-sponsored multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 31 U.S. centers (plus one in Canada) in 3,837 persons without history of severe congestive heart failure or presence of recent heart failure; certain conduction defects; angina since infarction, who had survived the acute phase of myocardial infarction. Propranolol hydrochloride was administered at either 60 or 80 mg t.i.d. based on blood levels achieved during an initial trial of 40 mg t.i.d. Therapy with propranolol, begun 5 to 21 days following infarction, was shown to reduce overall mortality up to 39 months, the longest period of follow-up. This was primarily attributable to a reduction in cardiovascular mortality. The protective effect of propranolol was consistent regardless of age, sex, or site of infarction. Compared with placebo, total mortality was reduced 39% at 12 months and 26% over an average follow-up period of 25 months. The Norwegian Multicenter Trial in which propranolol was administered at 40 mg q.i.d. gave overall results which support the findings in the BHAT.
Although the clinical trials used either t.i.d. or q.i.d. dosing, clinical, pharmacologic, and pharmacokinetic data provide a reasonable basis for concluding that b.i.d. dosing with propranolol should be adequate in the treatment of postinfarction patients.
In a 34-week, placebo-controlled, 4-period, dose-finding crossover study with a double-blind randomized treatment sequence, 62 patients with migraine received propranolol hydrochloride 20 to 80 mg 3 or 4 times daily. The headache unit index, a composite of the number of days with headache and the associated severity of the headache, was significantly reduced for patients receiving propranolol as compared to those on placebo.
In a 2 week, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of 9 patients with essential or familial tremor, propranolol hydrochloride, at a dose titrated as needed from 40 to 80 mg t.i.d. reduced tremor severity compared to placebo.
Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis
In an uncontrolled series of 13 patients with New York Heart Association (NYHA) class 2 or 3 symptoms and hypertrophic subaortic stenosis diagnosed at cardiac catheterization, oral propranolol hydrochloride 40 to 80 mg t.i.d. was administered and patients were followed for up to 17 months. Propranolol was associated with improved NYHA class for most patients.
In an uncontrolled series of 3 patients with norepinephrine-secreting pheochromocytoma who were pretreated with an alpha adrenergic blocker (prazosin), perioperative use of propranolol hydrochloride at doses of 40 to 80 mg t.i.d. resulted in symptomatic blood pressure control.