FDA warns about blood pressure medication shortages amid recalls

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By Shamard Charles, M.D.

Over the last six months, dozens of batches of medications used to treat high blood pressure have been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration over concerns that they may be contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical. On Friday, the FDA said there is currently a national shortage of the widely prescribed medication valsartan, and that other drugs used to treat high blood pressure could also become in short supply due to the ongoing recalls.

Several generic valsartan products sold in the U.S. have been found to be contaminated with the chemical NDMA, which has linked to cancer.

“Overall, the risk to individual patients remains very small, although this doesn’t diminish the significance of this episode or our concerns,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement released Friday.

The most recent recall occurred Jan. 18, when Prinston Pharmaceuticals announced a voluntary recall of one batch of irbesartan tablets and seven batches of irbesartan HCTZ tablets, a common blood pressure medication.


Most of the identified batches were tainted with trace amounts of NDEA or NDMA, N-nitrosodimethylamine, which the FDA has classified as a “probable human carcinogen.” These environmental contaminants are also found in water and foods, including meats, dairy products and vegetables.