Most medications that are sold today, be those prescription medications or over the counter drugs usually contain only one active ingredient. However, there are some medications which are combination drugs, which means that there are several ingredients involved in them, most usually individual drugs. For instance, opioid painkillers are often combined with acetaminophen and there are other similar combinations. In this article, we will talk more about the three ingredients found in Fioricet; we will talk about what they do individually and why it was that they were combined in this medication.
The first among these three ingredients in Fioricet is butalbital. Butalbital is a barbiturate that is almost never used on its own. It is found in numerous combination drugs and Fioricet is one of them. It works as a CNS depressant which means that it provides a range of beneficial effects, most notably analgesia, or alleviation of pain. Butalbital provides analgesia by binding to the GABA receptors and thus elevating the levels of this neurotransmitter in the CNS. As a result of this, the pain sensations are diminished. The most of the analgesic properties of Fioricet are due to butalbital.
Acetaminophen, which is also known as paracetamol is the second of the ingredients and it is one of the most commonly used analgesics in the world. It is very mild and it also has antipyretic properties, meaning that it reduces inflammation. The reason why acetaminophen has found its way into numerous combination drugs is that it can enhance the efficacy of other ingredients (in this case butalbital) through drug synergy. Also, it is used as a deterrent. Namely, butalbital has the potential for causing dependence and any excessive intake of butalbital is prevented by inclusion of acetaminophen which can cause severe liver damage if taken in large doses and which can even be lethal.
Caffeine is the final ingredient in Fioricet and it is a well-known stimulant. Its stimulating properties were not essential for its inclusion in Fioricet, but rather its ability to constrict the blood vessels found in the brain. The dilation of blood vessels was found to contribute to the headaches and caffeine was introduced in order to alleviate headaches through vasoconstriction.