The Valsartan Recall: 5 Tips from your pharmacist

You’re probably reading this because you take the drug Valsartan and you’ve heard about a “drug recall” or are having a hard time filling your prescription for it. Fear not, I’m here to break it down for you! 

Valsartan, a drug commonly used for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart failure, is currently in shortage due to a voluntary FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and manufacturer drug recall. These recalls are voluntary and involve multiple lots of Valsartan and combination drugs containing Valsartan. Which means your local pharmacy is disposing or returning their stock of products containing Valsartan

Why? Because they found small amounts of an unexpected impurity N-nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA. NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen, or cancer causing agent, and occurs naturally in certain foods, air pollution, and drinking water. 

To date, there have been no adverse events related to these recalls. But, if you have any products containing Valsartan at home, contact your pharmacist who dispensed the medication or prescribing doctor to discuss your alternative treatment options moving forward. 

Here are 5 tips for patients taking Valsartan moving forward:

1. DO NOT abruptly stop taking your medication before speaking to your pharmacist or doctor! 

Not all medications containing Valsartan are included in the drug recall and therefore not harmful. For instance, some combinations of Amlodipine and Valsartan or Amlodipine and Sacubitril do not seem to be affected by the recall. Either way, stopping this or any other medication abruptly can have serious harmful effects. 

2. This doesn’t mean you have to switch your medication. 

If you are taking Valsartan, you are likely taking it to treat high blood pressure or heart failure, which are both serious conditions. This recall does not mean you have to change your medication treatment plan. You can find generic Valsartan manufacturers that are not affected by this recall, although pricing may have gone up.

3. There are other drugs in this same class of medication that can work just as well or the same—8 to be exact. 

This class of drugs is known as angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs. ARBs help to dilate or widen blood vessels which reduce blood pressure and gives your heart a break from working so hard. Here are the 8 ARB’s that are currently available: 

Equivalent dose
Candesaran (Atacand)8 mg
Olmesartan (Benicar)10 mg
Telmisartan (Micardis)20 mg
Losartan (Cozaar)25 mg
Valsartan (Diovan)40 mg
Irbesartan (Avapro)75 mg
Eprosartan (Tevetan)400 mg
Conversion chart for ARB equivalent doses

4. Hypochondriac’s beware—you’re not going to die! 

Because trace amounts of NDMA were found in the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) does not mean that you’re going to get cancer. The studies finding the dangers of NDMA are generally conducted in the lab and given in large doses to rats. Therefore, the risk is not likely the same in humans. Only exposure to very high doses of NDMA can cause liver damage in humans. 

5. Prescription medications are not always the answer. 

There is a time and place for western medicine, but nothing can compare to having a healthy lifestyle involving good diet and exercise. Come up with a comprehensive plan with your Honeybee pharmacist or doctor that doesn’t solely rely on medications. A healthy diet with reduced salt intake and an exercise regimen can go a very long way in protecting your heart and also reducing blood pressure. Balance is key.

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Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi
Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi

Dr. Jessica is a co-founder of Honeybee and the head pharmacist, with a focus on bioethics. She enjoys watercolor painting, trashy TV, and leading the charge for a better healthcare industry.

Jessica Nouhavandi