Thousands of Americans take blood pressure medication every day. Unfortunately, manufacturers are pulling more and more of those medications from the market because of concerns over impurities found in the medication. According to the FDA, these impurities can cause cancer. Several manufacturers started pulling these medications voluntarily in July. The affected drugs include:

  • Losartan
  • Valsartan
  • Amlopidine
  • Irbesartan
  • Hydrochlorothiazide

Most of these drugs are part of a group of drugs called ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) that relax the patient’s blood vessels. This lowers the person’s blood pressure. Doctors commonly prescribe these drugs, along with another group called ACE inhibitors, as the first line of defense against high blood pressure.

The cause of the problem

Many of these drugs were manufactured in China. Somehow, one of two chemical byproducts contaminated the drugs, N-nitrosodimethylamine or N-nitrosodiethylamine. These contaminants are probable human carcinogens. Carcinogens can cause cancer. The FDA is still not sure how the contaminants occurred.

Drug manufacturers use valsartan as an ingredient in many generic blood pressure medications. The manufacturers have slowly withdrawn all medication containing valsartan over the last couple months. Common manufacturers include Teva, Sandoz, Mylan and ScieGen Pharmaceuticals. The FDA continues to investigate and track the recall, but the manufacturers have voluntarily recalled the drugs up to this point.

What should you do if you take blood pressure medication?

The first thing you should do is check to see if your medication has been recalled. If you are not sure, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. You may not want to stop taking the medication without talking to your doctor first. That may do more harm than good. Some of the manufacturers have set up costumer service contacts. Teva’s consumer question line is 888-838-2872 or email at [email protected]

No one has reported a health problem due to the contaminants at this point, but carcinogens don’t cause cancer overnight. It could take quite some time before we know the full impact of the health risks caused by these contaminants. If you do experience a negative reaction to one of the recalled drugs, you should report it to your doctor, as well as the FDA. You may also want to consider pursuing a lawsuit against the manufacturer.