Dangerous Drugs

Common Blood Pressure Medication Linked to Cancer

August 12, 2022

Valsartan, a common drug used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, has been recalled over NDMA contamination. NDMA is a probable human carcinogen that was once used as an ingredient in rocket fuel and is currently actually used to create cancer in rats for cancer research. Learn how you might be at risk and what you need to know going forward.

As reported last year in the Gavel, Valsartan, a common prescription drug used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, was recalled after the product was linked to the development of various forms of cancer.  For many years, Valsartan, and its generic successors, was a widely prescribed drug used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a worldwide recall involving medications containing Valsartan after studies showed that it was potentially tainted with a cancer-causing agent known as NDMA.  

NDMA, short for N-Nitrosodimethylamine, is classified as “a probable human carcinogen” that was once used as an ingredient in rocket fuel and is currently actually used to create cancer in rats for cancer research. In fact, NDMA is not currently produced in pure form or commercially used in the United States, except for research purposes. Valsartan originally came on the market in 1996 under the brand name Diovan. It was sold by more than 30 different companies under a variety of generic names.

Valsartan treats high blood pressure by blocking angiotensin, a chemical that narrows one’s blood vessels. Valsartan keeps the vessels open and more relaxed, allowing for easier blood flow. However, even short-term exposure to NDMA can cause liver damage (such as liver fibrosis and scarring). Long-term exposure can increase the risk of liver, kidney, and lung tumors. In addition to these complications, symptoms of NDMA overexposure include headaches, fever, nausea, jaundice, vomiting and abdominal cramps.

Considered a “maintenance drug”, Valsartan was often taken daily on a long-term basis. This sort of use is exactly the type of exposure that can cause cancer. NDMA exposure is linked to several different types of cancers such as:

  • Liver Cancer
  • Gastric Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Stomach Cancer
  • Small Intestine Cancer

Given the widespread use of Valsartan, the number of people who may develop cancer from exposure to NDMA is extremely troublesome.

Though Valsartan products were available to anyone with high blood pressure, VA Hospitals prescribed Valsartan at a very high rate, possibly affecting our vets with tainted Valsartan.

2022 Valsartan Litigation Update.

As of this writing, there have not been any large groups of settlements involving Valsartan and its link to cancer. However, more than 1000 Valsartan cases have been consolidated in New Jersey Federal Court in a process known as Multi-District Litigation (MDL). An MDL consolidates cases from around the country into a single federal court for coordinated discovery and other procedures. Test cases, called bellwether trials, may be held to allow the parties to see how a representative case will play out in court, often leading to the resolution of a large number of cases. Three cases in the MDL are currently being worked up for possible future bellwether trials. This spring, the judge in the New Jersey MDL appointed two former judges to possibly accelerate global settlement negotiations. If settlement fails, bellwether trials could start as early as fall of 2022.  

We’re Here to Help.

If you are one of the thousands of people that took Valsartan between 2015 and 2018 to treat high blood pressure or other conditions, you may have been injured by the NDMA contamination. Thousands of lawsuits will likely be filed over the Valsartan contamination. If you or a loved one received a cancer diagnosis after taking valsartan you may be entitled to significant damages without ever going to court.  We're here to help. Click HERE for a free and no-obligation review of your case. If you don’t receive a recovery through a lawsuit or settlement, you don’t owe us anything.

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