RESULTS: No significant difference in plasma propranolol (mean +/- SEM) levels was seen between races six hours after the last dose (Malays, 59.7 +/- 8.8 ng/ml, Indians, 67.6 +/- 19.3 ng/ml, Chinese, 58.4 +/- 7.9 ng/ml). Chinese were least sensitive to the bradycardic and hypotensive effects of propranolol at rest and exercise. Indians and Malays had significant reduction of supine systolic blood pressure with propranolol but not Chinese. Comparison of percentage reductions of systolic blood pressure at supine, sitting and exercise by repeated measure analysis showed the Malays to have significantly higher change compared to the Chinese (p = 0.022). Similarly, comparison of percentage reductions of heart rate at supine, sitting and exercise by repeated measure analysis showed the Malays to have significantly higher change compared to the Chinese (p = 0.040). Average change in potassium concentrations at peak exercise and recovery showed the Indians to have significantly higher increase in potassium levels with propranolol compared to the Malays (p = 0.038). However, no significant interethnic difference was seen in the reduction of glucose levels at rest, peak exercise or recovery. Also, no significant interethnic difference was seen in reduction of FEV1 values.
CONCLUSION: We, therefore, conclude that ethnic differences in response to blockade of beta-receptors exist among racial groups in Malaysia. These differences were seen at similar plasma drug levels between races suggesting ethnic differences in drug sensitivity, rather than differences in drug disposition.