|Trade names||Aldomet, Aldoril, Dopamet, others|
|by mouth, IV|
|Onset of action||4 to 6 hrs|
|Elimination half-life||105 minutes|
|Duration of action||10 to 48 hrs|
|Excretion||Kidney for metabolites|
|CompTox Dashboard (EPA)|
|Chemical and physical data|
|Molar mass||211.215 g/mol g·mol−1|
|3D model (JSmol)|
|(what is this?)|
Methyldopa, sold under the brand name Aldomet among others, is a medication used for high blood pressure. It is one of the preferred treatments for high blood pressure in pregnancy. For other types of high blood pressure including very high blood pressure resulting in symptoms other medications are typically preferred. It can be given by mouth or injection into a vein. Onset of effects is around 5 hours and they last about a day.
Common side effects include sleepiness. More severe side effects include red blood cell breakdown, liver problems, and allergic reactions. Methyldopa is in the alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonist family of medication. It works by stimulating the brain to decrease the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Methyldopa was discovered in 1960. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. The wholesale cost in the developing world is about US$4.31–9.48 per month. In the United States it costs less than $25 per month.
- Hypertension (or high blood pressure)
- Gestational hypertension (or pregnancy-induced hypertension) and pre-eclampsia
Methyldopa is capable of inducing a number of adverse side effects, which range from mild to severe. Nevertheless, they are generally mild when the dose is less than 1 gram per day. Side effects may include:
- Depression or even suicidal ideation, as well as nightmares
- Apathy or anhedonia, as well as dysphoria
- Anxiety, especially of the social anxiety variant
- Decreased alertness, awareness, and wakefulness
- Impaired attention, focus, and concentration
- Decreased desire, drive, and motivation
- Fatigue or lethargy or malaise or lassitude
- Sedation or drowsiness or somnolence or sleepiness
- Agitation or restlessness
- Cognitive and memory impairment
- Derealization or depersonalization, as well as mild psychosis
- Sexual dysfunction including impaired libido, desire, and drive
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or vertigo
- Miosis or pupil constriction
- Xerostomia or dry mouth
- Gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea or constipation
- Headache or migraine
- Myalgia or muscle aches, arthralgia or joint pain, or paresthesia (“pins and needles”)
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Parkinsonian symptoms such as muscle tremors, rigidity, hypokinesia, or balance or postural instability
- Akathisia, ataxia, dyskinesia as well as even tardive dyskinesia, or dystonia
- Bell’s palsy or facial paralysis
- Sexual dysfunction consisting of impaired erectile dysfunction or anorgasmia
- Hyperprolactinemia or excess prolactin, gynecomastia/breast enlargement in males, or amenorrhoea or absence of menstrual cycles in females
- Bradycardia or decreased heart rate
- Hypotension or decreased blood pressure (though this may also be considered a therapeutic benefit)
- Orthostatic hypotension (also known as postural hypotension)
- Hepatitis, hepatotoxicity, or liver dysfunction or damage
- Pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas
- Warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia or deficiency in red blood cells (RBCs)
- Myelotoxicity or bone marrow suppression, potentially leading to thrombocytopenia or blood platelet deficiency or leukopenia or white blood cell (WBC) deficiency
- Hypersensitivity such as lupus erythematosus, myocarditis, or pericarditis
- Lichenoid reactions such as skin lesions or rashes
Mechanism of action
Methyldopa has a dual mechanism of action:
- It is a competitive inhibitor of the enzyme DOPA decarboxylase, also known as aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase, which converts L-DOPA into dopamine. Dopamine is a precursor for norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and subsequently epinephrine (adrenaline). This inhibition results in reduced dopaminergic and adrenergic neurotransmission in the peripheral nervous system. This effect may lower blood pressure and cause central nervous system effects such as depression, anxiety, apathy, anhedonia, and parkinsonism. In addition, decreased dopamine may reduce its inhibitory effect on prolactin leading to signs and symptoms of hyperprolactinemia.
- It is converted to α-methylnorepinephrine by dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH). α-Methylnorepinephrine is an agonist of presynaptic central nervous system α2 adrenergic receptors. Activation of these receptors in the brainstem appears to inhibit sympathetic nervous system output and lower blood pressure. This is also the mechanism of action of clonidine.
When methyldopa was first introduced, it was the mainstay of antihypertensive treatment, but its use has declined on account of relatively severe adverse side effects, with increased use of other safer and more tolerable agents such as alpha blockers, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Additionally, it has yet to be associated with reducing adverse cardiovascular events including myocardial infarction and stroke, or overall all-cause mortality reduction in clinical trials. Nonetheless, one of methyldopa’s still current indications is in the management of pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), as it is relatively safe in pregnancy compared to many other antihypertensives which may affect the fetus.
- D-DOPA (dextrodopa)
- L-DOPA (levodopa; trade names Sinemet, Pharmacopa, Atamet, Stalevo, Madopar, Prolopa, etc.)
- L-DOPS (droxidopa)
- Dopamine (Intropan, Inovan, Revivan, Rivimine, Dopastat, Dynatra, etc.)
- Norepinephrine (noradrenaline; Levophed, etc.)
- Epinephrine (adrenaline; Adrenalin, EpiPed, Twinject, etc.)
- “Methyldopa”. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
- Walker, S. R. (2012). Trends and Changes in Drug Research and Development. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 109. ISBN 9789400926592. Archived from the original on 2016-09-14.
- “WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (19th List)” (PDF). World Health Organization. April 2015. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
- “Methyldopa”. International Drug Price Indicator Guide. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
- Hamilton, Richart (2015). Tarascon Pocket Pharmacopoeia 2015 Deluxe Lab-Coat Edition. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 140. ISBN 9781284057560.
- British National Formulary 56. September 2008. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-0-85369-778-7.
- Methyldopa (PIM 342) Archived 2008-03-13 at the Wayback Machine
- Mah GT, Tejani AM, Musini VM. Methyldopa for primary hypertension. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003893. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003893.pub3.