Over the past year, various blood pressure medicines have been recalled across the US and more recently in the UK and Europe after a cancer-causing contaminant was discovered in some of the batches. Investigators believe that the medicines were contaminated in the manufacturing process. Valsartan, which is one of the most commonly used blood pressure medicines, is also among those being recalled.
Valsartan is primarily used for the treatment of heart failure and high blood pressure. It enhances the probability of the patient leading a longer and healthier life after suffering from a heart attack. Valsartan is categorized under the class drugs known as Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs). It relaxes blood vessels in order to help the blood flow easily.
There are various types of Valsartan currently available in the market and both the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) have announced the recall of several of them. Further details of the recall can be found on the websites of both organisations.
The Reason Behind the Recall
These recalled blood pressure medications have been found to be contaminated with either N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) or N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which are cancer-causing chemicals. Moreover, research has also indicated that NDEA may also contribute towards blood cell and liver damage.
NDEA is utilized to create rocket fuel and has also been discovered in small amounts in certain foods and drinking water. This chemical can be created via some chemical reactions and as industrial processes’ byproducts.
After the US recall, both MHRA and EMA have recalled all medication containing containing four other ‘sartans’, namely candesartan, irbesartan, losartan and olmesartan. This precautionary recall has been announced because of the potential N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) contamination.
The Risk of Getting Cancer from These Medicines
According to the findings of all 3 agencies, the risk of getting cancer from using Valsartan is small since the NDMA discovered in the medicine only slightly exceeds the levels of acceptability. According to the drug manufacturers’ records, this impurity might have been contained in Valsartan products since more than 4 years.
Investigations all over Europe have been initiated regarding this contamination. According to the results so far, there hasn’t been any evidence indicating that any patients have been harmed and the agencies have stated that this contamination has not affected all of the sartan products.
What Should Blood Pressure Patients Relying on These Medications Do?
According to the medical experts, patients using these recalled drugs can continue taking them however, before doing so, it is highly recommended to consult your pharmacist or doctor immediately. The threat of cancer from the contaminated batches of Valsartan and other sartans might be low as compared to the threat of not using them at all.
It is best to request your doctor to suggest an alternative. These nationwide recalls have made it difficult to find Valsartan medicines in the market meaning that whether you want to use this drug or not, you might have no other choice but to use alternative blood pressure medications. Therefore, ensure that you consult your doctor immediately before you switch to another medication or completely stop using it.