Valsartan is a hypertension medication and used to treat heart failure. It lowers the risk of heart attack.
Valsartan blocks angiotensin II from constricting blood vessels. It also reduces high blood pressure by activating aldosterone. It works by binding with angiotensin type I receptors. It’s an antagonist but works differently than other ACE inhibitors drugs that block the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II.
In 2019, users of Valsartan began filing lawsuits against the drug’s manufacturer claiming the use of the medication had caused them to develop cancer. According to research used by plaintiffs in the lawsuits, numerous batches of the drug were contaminated with cancer-causing substances including NDMA, NDEA, and NMBA.
There were numerous recalls by manufacturers of valsartan-containing drugs after it was determined that it might have been contaminated during production in Chinese and India manufacturing plants. Every lot of the medication manufactured by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals were eventually recalled.
Cancers linked to Valsartan use include:
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
Lawsuits claim that the manufacturer of valsartan was aware of the carcinogen in the drug as early as 2012, but continued to distribute. The lawsuits allege fraud and deception.
In the winter of 2019, the Valsartan lawsuits were combined into a new MLDL by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). MDL 2875 initially included 55 lawsuits filed across multiple U.S. district courts. As of April 2020, there are more than 290 valsartan legal actions in the MDL.
Why is Valsartan Dangerous?
NDMA, NDEA, and NMBA are all considered carcinogenic. This means they are known to cause cancer. In addition to cancer, many other side effects are possible if a person is exposed to NDMA.
- Abdominal cramps
- Enlarged liver
- Reduced function of the kidney, liver, and lungs
Cancer Lawsuits Move Forward Amidst Concerns about Blood Pressure Medications and COVID-19
Makers of Valsartan and other blood pressure medicines now face new concerns.
Some in the medical community were concerned that these types of medications increased the body’s levels of ACE2 protein. Research shows that coronavirus latches onto this protein when it enters human cells, making them more vulnerable to contracting the disease and developing its most serious symptoms. Animal studies had shown that these medications could be cause for concern.
However, the most recent observational studies show that this likely isn’t the case and these types of medications do not increase a person’s susceptibility to COVID-19 infections, nor do they increase the risk of developing serious symptoms as a result of contracting the virus. The study looked at Valsartan, as well as other similar medications, including ARBs and ACE inhibitors.
Additionally, there were animal studies that contradicted the findings and showed that higher levels of ACE2 proteins could reduce an inflammatory reaction in the lungs that is a risk when someone contracts COVID-19. Less inflammation is better for COVID patients.
All three studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Scientists said they didn’t see evidence that the chances of testing positive were greater for those using ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers.
There were initially questions regarding whether people with cardiovascular conditions had a higher risk for developing severe symptoms if they contracted COVID-19, but the medical community was unclear whether that was linked to the condition or the medication being used to control it. Now, researchers are confident that the negative outcomes are linked directly to a person’s cardiovascular system. According to the lead doctor in one of the studies, the virus definitely interacts with the cardiovascular system in a negative manner.
This particular study also concluded that blood pressure medicines could potentially lower the risk of death from COVID-19. He encouraged those taking statins or ACE inhibitors to continue doing so.