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What you need to know about recent blood pressure drug recalls

It can be hard to keep up-to-date on all the recalls happening here in the United States. It seems like there are always new auto parts recalls — and then there's the romaine debacle. It's dangerous, it's back on the shelf, now it might be safe as long as it's not from a certain farming region.

It's enough to make consumers' heads spin. But consumers have choices when it comes to the cars they drive and the foods they consume. But when it comes to the life-preserving medications they take, patients typically have far fewer options, which is why the latest blood pressure drug recalls is especially disconcerting.

Valsartan pulled from market

In December, pharmaceutical manufacturer Mylan announced the company was voluntarily expanding an earlier recall of a commonly prescribed blood pressure drug. The generic drugmaker's recall involved the drug valsartan, lots of which were apparently contaminated by a known carcinogen: In all, 104 lots of the combo drugs amlodipine and valsartan, and hydrochlorothiazide anvalsartan, losartan and irbesartan.

The drugs are angiotensin II receptor blockers that relax and widen blood vessels to reduce blood pressure.

Human carcinogen in meds

Last summer, lab tests showed overseas pharmaceutical factories in both India and China were responsible for producing drugs containing potential human carcinogens. Quality control measures revealed that the valsartan drugs also showed traces of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), the suspected carcinogen.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency tasked with investigating the origin of the recalled drugs, both factories used similar manufacturing processes, which led to the spread of the hazards to generic drug manufacturers all over the globe.

Then in September, the FDA announced subsequent testing indicated the presence of a second contaminant, NDEA, another suspected carcinogen, in some valsartan drugs.

The FDA noted these factories in the supply chain of the contaminated drugs were placed on import alert and can no longer ship medicine from the factories into the United States. These manufacturers, while not located in the United States, are still subject to FDA oversight and have a duty to report to regulators any changes in the manufacturing process of the ingredients.

Drugs without valsartan unaffected

Since millions of Americans use both the medications hydrochlorothiazide and amlodipine to control their blood pressure, it should be noted that taking these drugs without valsartan added to it is fine. The drugs themselves are not subject to the recall.

Also, if you happen to have been prescribed one of the recalled medications, you shouldn't abruptly cease taking blood pressure medicine. Fortunately, there are alternative drugs that can be substituted. Discuss your situation with your family doctor and pharmacist to find a safer choice.

Still have questions? Call 888-406-9305 to speak with someone who can provide answers.

Were you harmed by a dangerous drug or medical device? It may be possible to recover financial damages from those responsible for these hazards.

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