FDA recalls blood pressure, heart failure medications due to potential cancer risk

Posted at 5:04 PM, Jul 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 17:42:41-04

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is recalling a common drug because of a potential link to cancer. Twenty-two other countries have already recalled this drug that’s often used to control blood pressure and treat heart conditions.   

Question: What drug are we talking about?

The drug that’s being recalled is called Valsartan.  It’s an active ingredient found in several drug products but not all of them are being recalled.  Just the versions made by the following companies: Major Pharmaceuticals, Solco Healthcare and Teva Pharmaceuticals.  Valsartan with hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) also sold by Solco Healthcare and Teva Pharmaceuticals are also in the recall.  
Question: So this drug is being recalled due to possible links to cancer.  What do we know about this?

Well the FDA has assessed the valsartan-containing medications and has said they do not meet their safety standards.  Now an organic chemical called N-nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA was found in the recalled products.  This find was very unexpected and it’s speculated it may be in these products due to the way the substance was manufactured.  Now NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen, which means that it could cause cancer.   And based on lab tests, it’s been shown to cause tumors in the liver and kidney as well as in the respiratory tract.  High levels may also cause liver damage as well. 
Question: Should people who are taking the medication, stop it right away?

Valsartan is given to patients to help treat very serious medical conditions like hypertension and heart failure.  Now I know the word cancer scares a lot of people but please do not stop taking your medication without your doctor’s permission or it could lead to dangerous consequences.   If you’re not sure if your medication includes this ingredient, you can call your pharmacy or health care professional.  Just remember that not all drugs containing Valsartan are being recalled and if you are taking one, to talk to your doctor about other treatment options.