Propranolol

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2023

Propranolol, which treats high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, chest pain, and other heart symptoms, is also approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for preventing migraine attacks.1-3

Propranolol falls into the beta-blocker class of medications. Beta-blockers reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in 60 to 80 percent of people. But it is not clear if propranolol affects active migraine, so it should not be taken to stop migraine attacks already in progress.1-3

Propranolol is available in multiple formulations, including tablets, liquid, and a long-acting time-release capsule. Not all formulations of propranolol are approved for preventing migraine.1-3

Propranolol is sold under the brand names:1-3

  • Hemangeol®
  • Inderal®
  • Inderal® LA
  • Inderal® XL
  • InnoPran® XL

What are the ingredients in propranolol?

Propranolol is the active ingredient.1-3

How does propranolol work for migraine?

Propranolol works by blocking beta receptors in blood vessels. This causes the vessels to relax and improve blood flow. It also slows down the heart rate. Researchers do not fully understand how propranolol works to prevent migraine. But since migraines are thought to result from changes to blood flow in the brain, it is possible that opening the vessels can serve as a mode of prevention.1-3

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of propranolol include:1-3

These are not all the possible side effects of propranolol. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking propranolol. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking propranolol.

Other things to know

Do not suddenly stop taking propranolol should not be stopped suddenly. People who suddenly stop taking this drug may have serious heart problems like chest pain, heart attack, or irregular heartbeat.2

Before starting propranolol, tell your doctor if you:2,3

  • Have heart failure
  • Are scheduled for surgery and will be given anesthesia
  • Have diabetes and take medicine to control blood sugar
  • Have thyroid problems
  • Have irregular heartbeats
  • Have liver or kidney problems
  • Have had allergic reactions to medications or have allergies
  • Have asthma or other lung problems (such as bronchitis or emphysema)
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding

Before beginning treatment for migraine, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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