NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Food and Drug Administration is warning that your blood pressure medication might be contaminated.
A number of medications have now been recalled because some may contain a suspected carcinogen. That’s creating a shortage of some essential drugs, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday.
High blood pressure is a serious health risk. It can lead to heart attacks, strokes and other health issues. The FDA recall of a number of blood pressure drugs called “ARBs” has led to some shortages. And any shortage of blood pressure drugs can be a health problem.
It began last July when the FDA announced that it was recalling some generic blood pressure drugs, including Valsartan and Losartan, due to contamination with a potential cancer-causing compound called nitrosamine. Since then the agency has expanded the recall to additional generics and lots of medications of the same drug type, leading to patient concern and confusion.
Marie Vlahakis has high blood pressure, which has been well controlled with Losartan. Then she got a notice from her pharmacy benefits manager.
“I had a notice from my pharmacy email that there was a recall on this medication and so I looked it up and I found out that the manufacturer of the medicine I was taking was part of the recall,” Vlahakis said.
And when Vlahakis asked about a substitute medication her doctor prescribed, “They said we’ve had quite a run on this, but let me see if we can replace this. They found out that they had enough that they could send me a refill,” she said.
Vlahakis’ cardiologist, Dr. Mary Ann McLoughlin of Mt. Sinai Heart said she’s heard of some spot shortages, but more importantly, “not every drug in this class is recalled. It’s just certain brands of the drug.”
Meaning there are alternatives to the recalled drugs. She also emphasized that the potential risk from nitrosamines in those drugs is small.
“The worst thing to do is to stop a blood pressure medication abruptly, so we have to get the word out not to stop the medication. The risk of taking another week or two or three of that medication is really low compared to sudden stroke or heart attack by stopping a blood pressure medication,” McLoughlin said.
That’s very important. The risk from nitrosamines is far lower than the risk of abruptly stopping your blood pressure medication. Also, realize that nitrosamines are found in a lot of things many of us often consume, including bacon, certain cheeses and hot dogs.
It’s that we don’t want to add to that with a medication. In any case, talk to your pharmacist and your doctor.