Fioricet is prescribed primarily for tension headaches, but can also be used for migraines or managing fever and pain in combination. Generally, Fioricet is used when over-the-counter medications have failed to adequately manage headache pain.
- Fioricet is a combination pain-reliever (analgesic) containing acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine.
- Experts aren’t sure exactly how acetaminophen works, but suspect it blocks a specific type of cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzyme, located mainly in the brain.
- Butalbital belongs to the class of medicines called barbiturates. When used for pain due to tension headaches experts believe it works by relaxing muscle contractions and causing sedation via an enhancement of the inhibitory effects of GABA (a neurotransmitter that regulates communication between brain cells).
- Caffeine is thought to enhance the pain-relieving effects of acetaminophen by up to 40%. In addition, it has vasoconstrictive properties, narrowing blood vessels in the brain thereby decreasing blood flow and oxygen tension (before a headache or a migraine, blood vessels tend to enlarge). This also helps to relieve pain.
- Fioricet belongs to the class of medicines known as barbiturates because it contains butalbital. It may also be called a combination analgesic.