What is Valsartan?
Valsartan, also known by its brand name Diovan, is a prescription drug used to high blood pressure in adults and children over age six and adult heart failure. Diovan belongs to a family of drugs known as angiotensin II receptor blockers. Children under age six and people with certain kidney diseases should not take Valsartan or Diovan. You should notify your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any prescription drug or over-the-counter medication when discussing treatment options for high blood pressure or heart failure.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), patients with heart failure often require fewer hospitalizations with regular use of Diovan. Those who have had a heart attack may increase their chances of living longer. As with all prescription drugs, you should educate yourself about the common side effects of Diovan and any potential drug interactions before starting it. This applies to other blood pressure medications and prescription drugs for congestive heart failure as well.
Potentially Serious Side Effects of Diovan
One of the most serious side effects associated with brand name Valsartan (Diovan) and its generic equivalents is the risk of death or injury to an unborn baby. Fetal death can occur as late as the third trimester. If you are pregnant and suffer from high blood pressure, heart failure, or have had a heart attack, speak to your health care provider about an alternative to Diovan for the remainder of your pregnancy. You should also know that Diovan can pass into breastmilk. Other potentially serious side effects include:
- Kidney problems: Diovan can worsen existing kidney problems or cause kidney failure. You should receive frequent monitoring of your Diovan dose if you already have kidney problems. We also recommend alerting your health care provider about unintended weight gain or swelling of your hands, feet, or ankles. Your health care provider should check your kidney function before offering the prescription drug Valsartan if you have heart failure.
- Low blood pressure: You are most likely to experience a drug interaction causing low blood pressure if you take Diovan while also taking potassium supplements, water pills, salt substitutes, follow a low-salt diet, receive dialysis treatment for kidney disease, have heart failure or other cardiac issues, or frequently become sick with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.
Common side effects associated with Diovan for people with high blood pressure include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Stomach pain
For people with heart failure, the most common side effects of Diovan include:
- Back pain
- Decreased kidney function
- High blood potassium
- Joint pain
- Low blood pressure
If these symptoms bother you to the point of interfering with daily activities, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor about discontinuing Diovan or starting on an alternative prescription drug or over-the-counter medication.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first announced a recall on angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) drugs in July 2018. The recall notice applied to medications containing amlodipine combined with Losartan or Valsartan and hydrochlorothiazide HCTZ combined with Losartan or Valsartan. The July 2018 recall notice did not affect medications containing only hydrochlorothiazide HCTZ or amlodipine. However, the FDA recall notice did include approximately 50 percent of the supply of Valsartan products in the United States. The FDA has also gone on record stating that it believes Valsartan products first became contaminated in 2014.
Why did the FDA Recall Valsartan Products?
The July 2018 FDA recall came after medical researchers discovered that n-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), one of the primary ingredients in Diovan and other Valsartan products, had an impurity that could potentially cause cancer. The FDA declared Valsartan products as a probable human carcinogen at that time. The impurities likely developed due to exposure to high temperatures and a breakdown of the molecules over time.
Two months after the initial recall notice, the FDA announced it had discovered another potentially toxic chemical called n-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) in tainted batches of the heart failure and high blood pressure medication. In March 2019, the FDA added two additional drugs in the angiotensin II receptor blockers to its recall list. These include Irbesartan and Losartan.
Was Your Drug on the FDA Recall List?
If you took Valsartan, Diovan, or any products from the angiotensin II receptor blockers family containing NDMA or NDEA, the first thing you should do is determine the drug manufacturer and the lot number associated with your prescription drug or OTC medication. You should be able to find this information on the pill container or the printed insert that came with it.
Once you have located the drug manufacturer and lot number, you can ask your pharmacist if your drug was part of the FDA recall or look up the information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration List of Recalled Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs). This includes Diovan, Valsartan, Aliskiren, Lisinopril, Losartan, and Naproxen.
Speak to your health care provider right away if the drug you took was part of the FDA recall. Your doctor is the best person to advise you on whether you should take an alternative drug or consider other treatment options. You may meet eligibility to seek financial compensation with a product liability or medical malpractice lawsuit if you recently receive a cancer diagnosis and your attorney can prove it was due to taking Diovan.
You are eligible to file a Valsartan lawsuit if you took a Valsartan product after January 1, 2015 and a doctor diagnosed you with cancer after January 1, 2017. You may also file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one who met the eligibility criteria. The following types of cancer qualify under eligibility requirements for a Valsartan lawsuit:
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma