Assess whether propranolol modulates the trigeminovascular system in both men and women.
We investigated the effect of propranolol (80 mg, 90 min after oral administration, corresponding to Tmax) on the increase in dermal blood flow of the forehead skin (innervated by the trigeminal nerve) by capsaicin application (0.6 mg/mL) and electrical stimulation (0.2–1.0 mA) before and after placebo (grapefruit juice) or propranolol (oral solution diluted in grapefruit juice) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study, including healthy males (n = 10) and females on contraceptives (n = 11). Additionally, we compared our results with data from the Dutch IADB.nl prescription database by analyzing the change in triptan use after propranolol prescription in a population similar to our dermal blood flow study subjects (males and females, 20–39 years old).
Dermal blood flow responses to capsaicin were significantly attenuated after propranolol, but not after placebo. When stratifying by sex, no significant changes in the capsaicin-induced dermal blood flow were observed in females after propranolol, whereas they remained significant in males. Dermal blood flow responses to electrical stimulation were not modified in any case. In our prescription database study, after propranolol, a more pronounced decrease in triptan use was observed in male patients than in female patients.
Propranolol (80 mg) inhibits capsaicin-induced increases in dermal blood flow in a sex-dependent manner. In patients, a more pronounced decrease in triptan use is observed in males when compared with females, suggesting an interaction between propranolol and sex steroids in the modulation of the trigeminovascular system.