Valsartan is the generic name for the blood pressure medication that has been linked to causing cancer in various regions of the stomach. Starting as early as age 6, physicians prescribe it to control the world’s most common heart condition. It is also used to prevent congestive heart failure.
For those with high blood pressure, their blood vessels narrow due to the presence of a chemical called angiotensin. Valsartan blocks angiotensin receptor and keeps the vessels open and more relaxed, allowing for easier blood flow.
Valsartan may cause side effects include nausea, headache, dizziness, and some may be prone to an allergic reaction. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are not recommended to take valsartan. In addition, those with kidney, liver, heart disease or dehydration are advised not to take it.
When people have high blood pressure, their hearts have to work faster than normal. This can lead to heart disease, heart attack, kidney disease and stroke. Naturally those with high blood pressure would like their risk of such complications to go down. However, the medication they’re using may create another problem without a cure – cancer.
Valsartan found to contain high levels of carcinogen
Valsartan is typically sold under its generic name but it also is found in other medications such as Diovan, Prexxartan, Amlodipine, Exforge, Entresto and Byvalson. In July 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a worldwide recall involving medications containing valsartan.
The pharmaceutical companies distributing valsartan-containing products used manufacturers that put higher-than-acceptable levels of the human carcinogen, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
The recall affects only valsartan manufactured by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals in China, Hetero Labs Limited in India. Apparently the change in manufacturing goes all the way back to 2012, which means patients could have unknowingly been taking a cancer-causing medication for up to six years.
Though valsartan products are available to anyone with high blood pressure, a concerning number of patients with the Veterans Administration are at risk. More than 4,500 were potentially exposed to the tainted valsartan.
As the investigation unfolds, the FDA has a growing list of companies that manufactured valsartan with high levels of NDMA.
- Bryant Ranch Prepack Inc.
- H. J. Harkins Company Inc.
- Lake Erie Medical, doing business as Quality Care Products LLC
- NuCare Pharmaceuticals Inc.
- Northwind Pharmaceuticals
- Proficient Rx
- Camber Pharmaceuticals (not all its valsartan products)
- Major Pharmaceuticals (Teva Pharmaceuticals USA)
- Solco Healthcare (Prinson Pharmaceuticals
- Actavis (Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd.)
Since valsartan is a medication used worldwide, 22 other countries have issued a recall.
Valsartan was introduced to the U.S. market in 1996 under the brand name, Diovan. The patent was lost in 2012 and nearly 30 different companies manufacture it in generic formulations.