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Gout Drug Cuts Teen High Blood Pressure

Allopurinol Lowers Teen Blood Pressure but Isn't the Ultimate Answer, Researcher Says
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 26, 2008 -- The drug allopurinol, often prescribed to lower uric acid levels in adults who suffer the painful arthritic condition known as gout, also appears to help lower high blood pressure in teens, according to a new study.

However, the study's lead author emphasizes he is not suggesting that the powerful drug, which can have serious side effects, be used in teens with high blood pressure. He conducted the study to test the hypothesis that lowering uric acid levels can lower blood pressure in teens.

"I really don't want this [study] to be taken to suggest that allopurinol is a good alternative for treatment of blood pressure in children or adults," says Daniel I. Feig, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The drug is too potent, he and other experts say, and the risk of serious side effects make it unattractive to use long-term in teens.

If future, larger studies also find that lowering uric acid in teens with high blood pressure normalizes their pressure, Feig says, "the impetus will be ... to find better ways to lower uric acid, whether by dietary means or by medications."

The study is published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Uric Acid and Blood Pressure: The Back Story

Buildup of uric acid, a natural waste product, can lead to a painful inflammation of the joints called gout, a form of arthritis that typically occurs in middle-aged men. Uric acid levels can increase if the body produces more of it or if the body has problems getting rid of it.

Uric acid also has been discussed as a possible factor in high blood pressure since the 1870s, Feig says. But the concept fell out of favor in recent times, until laboratory studies on animals beginning in the late 1990s showed that inducing a rise in uric acid in animals raises their blood pressure. Other studies have found that lowering uric acid levels can improve blood vessel functioning, he says.

Gout Medicine for Teen Blood Pressure

Feig's team randomly assigned 30 teens, aged 11 to 17, with newly diagnosed stage I essential hypertension, the mildest kind, to take either 200 milligrams of allopurinol twice daily for four weeks or a placebo twice daily for four weeks. The teens didn't know which they were taking.

After four weeks, the teens switched groups: Teens taking the placebo got the drug and teens taking the drug got the placebo.

All of the teens had levels of uric acid associated, in previous studies, with high blood pressure. Most of the participants were overweight or obese.

They had their blood pressure taken at the clinic and via an ambulatory monitoring system.

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