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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The effects of phenylpropanolamine on human sympathetic nervous system function.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) is a sympathomimetic agent, very similar in structure to amphetamine. In the United States, it is present in over 130 medications, primarily anorectic agents and cough and cold remedies, many available without a prescription. The effects of PPA on blood pressure (BP) remain controversial and its mechanisms of action unknown. We studied acute (1 and 2 hours) and 2-week effects of a daily dose of 75 mg of sustained release PPA administered to 14 normal volunteers. Measurements of heart rate, BP, and plasma catecholamines (CA) were made with the subject in the supine and standing positions, and upon gripping a hand dynamometer for 5 minutes. Although systolic BP across all postures and sampling times was significantly higher when subjects were taking PPA in comparison to placebo (F = 5.95, p = 0.03), in no subject did the increase in BP reach hypertensive or clinically significant levels and no substantial changes in CA levels were found. Our study population was relatively young and normotensive; even such a small BP increase may pose greater problems for hypertensive, obese subjects likely to be users of diet aids. Strenuous isometric exercise did not cause any greater increase in BP or CA after subjects took PPA versus placebo. PPA blood levels 24 hours after the last of 14 daily doses were similar to levels 1 and 2 hours after an initial dose. We conclude from these data that recommended doses of PPA have only minimal sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and cardiovascular effects in young, healthy, normotensive populations at the times and dose studied.[1]


  1. The effects of phenylpropanolamine on human sympathetic nervous system function. Lake, C.R., Chernow, B., Zaloga, G., Labow, J., Quirk, R., Hedges, S.M. Neuropsychopharmacology (1988) [Pubmed]
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