Since late last year, several pharmaceutical companies have been slowly recalling various lots of blood pressure medications containing valsartan, irbesartan, or losartan. The recalled drugs are believed to potentially contain an impurity called N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA). NDEA is a known animal and probable human carcinogen (Group 2A) most often found in tobacco smoke.
The medications involved in the recall belong to a class of drugs known as angiotensin II receptor blockers, or ARBs. ARBs work by widening or relaxing blood vessels, in turn lowering a patient’s blood pressure. ARBs and angiotensin converting-enzyme inhibitors, or ACE inhibitors, are generally the first recommendations made by doctors for patients suffering from high blood pressure.
“These are recommended as first line therapy for high blood pressure,” said Dr. Robert M. Carey, dean emeritus at the University of Virginia College of Medicine. “So when you get recalls, you do start to worry about what the alternatives would be.”
Patients and doctors do still have options available as ACE inhibitors are not involved in the recall, as well as several ARBs.
Doctors are urging patients who currently take one of the recalled medications to talk with their pharmacist or physician before stopping the medication, as discontinuing the use of blood pressure medication has the potential to cause much greater harm than the small increased risk of cancer.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has assembled a complete list of recalled ARBs and the pharmacautical companies that manufacture them on their website. You can view that list here. Recalled drugs
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