Blood pressure drugs end up on ban list

The recall is on medication containing valsartan which is used to treat high blood pressure.					Courtesy of Hope Litoff

The recall is on medication containing valsartan which is used to treat high blood pressure. Courtesy of Hope Litoff

The ministry said its decision to ban the hypertension drug came after the European Medicines Agency, the drug regulator for the European Union, announced it had found NDMA in Valsartan made by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical in China last Thursday.

Valsartan, a drug widely used to control blood pressure is being recalled in several countries around the world because of its chemical ingredient possibly linking to cancer.

The products are sold globally, which has led to a worldwide recall on a country-by-country basis.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention said the recall is a precautionary measure following a report issued by the European Medicines Agency.

The next step for the EMA is to conduct a review of the situation, including determining the levels of NDMA in the products, understanding how this may have affected patients and planning methods to eliminate or reduce such contamination in the future. The agency said it would evaluate the severity of the problem and the effects that the possible carcinogen might have on patients who are now taking drugs containing Valsartan.

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The drug was developed over 20 years ago by Novartis and since then has been very frequently prescribed to treat patients with high blood pressure.

As it is now off-patent, it is used as ingredient in many other generic medicines. "Patients should contact their pharmacist (s) to see if the drugs they're taking are indeed the affected, recalled valsartan products". Pharmacies are therefore instructed to remove the affected medications from their stock and quarantine them.

But the agency also said that anyone taking medication that contains valsartan should continue to take it unless told to stop by their doctor or pharmacist.

The medications contain the ingredient "valsartan" which was found in some products to have an impurity called N-Nitrosodimethylamine, a potential human carcinogen that could cause cancer with long-term exposure.

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