The Treatment of Primary Orthostatic Hypotension

Ann Pharmacother. 2017 May;51(5):417-428. doi: 10.1177/1060028016689264. Epub 2017 Jan 16.


Objective: To review the efficacy and safety of pharmacological and nonpharmacological strategies used to treat primary orthostatic hypotension (OH).

Data sources: A literature review using PubMed and MEDLINE databases searching hypotension, non-pharmacological therapy, midodrine, droxidopa, pyridostigmine, fludrocortisone, atomoxetine, pseudoephedrine, and octreotide was performed.

Study selection and data extraction: Randomized or observational studies, cohorts, case series, or case reports written in English between January 1970 and November 2016 that assessed primary OH treatment in adult patients were evaluated.

Data synthesis: Based on the chosen criteria, it was found that OH patients make up approximately 15% of all syncope patients, predominantly as a result of cardiovascular or neurological insults, or offending medication. Nonpharmacological strategies are the primary treatment, such as discontinuing offending medications, switching medication administration to bedtime, avoiding large carbohydrate-rich meals, limiting alcohol, maintaining adequate hydration, adding salt to diet, and so on. If these fail, pharmacotherapy can help ameliorate symptoms, including midodrine, droxidopa, fludrocortisone, pyridostigmine, atomoxetine, sympathomimetic agents, and octreotide.

Conclusions: Midodrine and droxidopa possess the most evidence with respect to increasing blood pressure and alleviating symptoms. Pyridostigmine and fludrocortisone can be used in patients who fail to respond to these agents. Emerging evidence with low-dose atomoxetine is promising, especially in those with central autonomic failure, and may prove to be a viable alternative treatment option. Data surrounding other therapies such as sympathomimetic agents or octreotide are minimal. Medication management of primary OH should be guided by patient-specific factors, such as tolerability, adverse effects, and drug-drug and drug-disease interactions.

Keywords: alternative medicine/therapies; cardiology; cardiovascular drugs; clinical practice; neurology; neuropharmacology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / administration & dosage
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / adverse effects
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Droxidopa / administration & dosage
  • Droxidopa / adverse effects
  • Droxidopa / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / chemically induced
  • Hypotension, Orthostatic / drug therapy*
  • Midodrine / administration & dosage
  • Midodrine / adverse effects
  • Midodrine / therapeutic use*
  • Posture
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride
  • Midodrine
  • Droxidopa