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Blood Pressure Drugs Recall: What To Do If Your Prescription Meds Are Affected

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recalled angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) due to contamination. The medications were found containing the chemical compound nitrosamine that has been linked to cancer. 

The FDA confirmed the contamination in two drug manufacturing factories in China and India. Officials believed problems with the manufacturing process potentially exposed the drugs to the potentially harmful compounds, N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) and N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

The latest recall affected losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan and Prexxartan) and irbesartan (Avapro). ARBs are known for helping reduce blood pressure.

Doctors also prescribe ARBs to help reduce complications related to heart failure and chronic kidney disease caused by diabetes. The recalled drugs were used in 61 million prescriptions in 2016 in the U.S., according to James Song-Jeng Yeh, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. 

What To Do With Your Recalled Blood Pressure Medications

Do not immediately stop taking your medications despite being included on the contaminated list. It is important to ask your pharmacy first if your drugs are affected. If yes, consult your doctor if you should take alternative drugs. 

“Right now, there is no evidence to suggest that individuals who were exposed to nitrosamine-contaminated medications need more frequent cancer screenings,” Yeh, who also practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a blog post. “But these individuals, like everyone, should ensure that they are up to date with cancer screening recommendations.”

Contaminated Blood Pressure Drugs

The FDA found that the drugs have been contaminated for up to four years. Estimates showed that nearly two million people were exposed to the cancer-linked compounds over the past years. 

However, the agency noted the patients have a low risk of developing the disease. For example, a daily dose of valsartan may cause only one cancer in 8,000 individuals. 

A separate study in Denmark also found no evidence of valsartan causing cancer after long-term use. Researchers analyzed the health of more than 5,000 cancer-free adults from 2012 to 2018. 

“They did not find any increased risk of cancer in those that received potentially NDMA-contaminated valsartan as compared to those that received non-contaminated valsartan,” Yeh said. 

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