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What is papaverine?

By Jonathan Morales
Thursday, July 16th, 2009 at 11:18 am in Orinda.

Much of the attention in the Joseph Loudon case has now become focused on papaverine, the medication found in Loudon’s system, according to the coroner’s report.

As mentioned in the story that ran this morning, papaverine is used to improve blood flow and control high blood pressure. It relaxes the blood vessels so blood can flow more easily through the body, and is also used to treat men with impotence. It’s a prescription medication, but Orinda police Chief Bill French said Loudon was not taking any prescription medications at the time of his death.

Still unknown are how Loudon ingested papaverine and where he got it from. According to the National Institutes of Health, papaverine is taken in tablet form, but French said yesterday it can also be injected. He also said this is the first time the department had heard of the drug.

A spokeswoman with the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy I chatted with briefly yesterday seemed unsure if anyone there would be able to speak as an expert on papaverine.

So does anybody have any information on this drug? Loudon’s blood-alcohol level was described as “very low” and French said it was the combination of alcohol and papaverine that led to his death. The department was unaware of any recreational use, but why this medication was in Loudon’s system remains unanswered.

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