Blood Pressure Medications: Which Are Safe to Use?

By Shane Power, President of Watertree Health

Many people have been alarmed by the FDA’s recall on popular blood pressure medications this past April. It’s estimated that 2 million people were dispensed drugs tainted with carcinogenic impurities. Research shows that some of these contaminants are also linked to liver and blood cell damage. Please note that taking your blood pressure medication is important and it is recommended that you should not abruptly stop taking your pills without consulting your doctor first.

The FDA “Safe List”

Thankfully, the FDA has published a “Safe List”, an assessment that marks the safety of over 400 medications prescribed for blood pressure. Each drug was tested for any impurities, and once cleared, the medication was approved for safe usage.

What Medications Were Recalled?

Generic drugs prescribed for high blood pressure including valsartan, losartan, and irbesartan in different variations and produced from different manufacturers. In 2016, 60 million prescriptions were written for losartan, 14 million for valsartan, and about 3.6 million for irbesartan.

What is the Actual Risk?

The FDA found that the actual risk to patients is very small. For example, the estimate is that out of 8,000 individuals taking the highest daily dose of valsartan (320 mg) for four years, there will be only one additional cancer case beyond the average cancer risk.

Why Were So Many Drugs Recalled?

The FDA is still investigating how these drugs were contaminated. Inspectors believe it was a byproduct of a chemical reaction. A common thread amongst all of these recalls is that the drugs’ ingredients were all made internationally. According to the Government Accountability Office, about 40% of medications are made overseas because outsourcing the manufacturing keeps costs low.

What Should Patients Do?

If you’re currently prescribed a blood pressure medication not included on the FDA’s contaminant-free list, make an appointment with your doctor at your earliest convenience. To ensure your safety, your doctor will determine what alternatives are right for you. Interrupting your medication regimen is never recommended.  
If you or someone you know is currently taking any blood pressure medication, share this article and the “Safety List” with them. The more that people are informed the less likely they will come in contact with potentially harmful medications.

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