What is valsartan?
Valsartan, also marketed under the brand name of Diovan, is a powerful anti-hypertonic medication widely used to decrease high blood pressure in chronic hypertensive patients, treat cardiac insufficiency, and reduce the risk of invalidity and death in myocardial infarction survivors. The FDA initially approved this blood pressure-regulating drug for medical use in 1996 under the brand name Diovan, and starting 2014, first valsartan-based generic versions of Diovan hit the shelves of pharmacies around the world.
Mechanism of action of valsartan
Valsartan operates as an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) that impedes the action of this potent vasoconstrictor hormone. High levels of angiotensin II in the body can cause the person’s blood vessels to constrict, elevating the arterial blood pressure, which, in turn, may lead to the development or aggravation of heart failure. By blocking the angiotensin II receptors, valsartan prevents the narrowing of blood vessels and lowers BP. Regular, daily intake of valsartan allows keeping one’s blood pressure under control and reduces the risk of developing adverse and life-threatening cardiovascular events.
Recommendations on the safe use of valsartan
Only a qualified medical practitioner on a case-to-case basis can determine the optimal dose of valsartan that will bring the most therapeutic benefit to the patient and keep the risk of adverse side effects low. Always strictly follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the correct use of valsartan and do not make any changes to your dosage regimen or the drug intake schedule recommended by your prescribing physician. Your pharmacist can also give useful tips on how to use valsartan, at My Canadian Pharmacy you can have the consultation added to the service package.
Take the medication at the same time every day with or without meals for the duration indicated by your doctor. In case of an overdose on valsartan, which may manifest itself by extreme dizziness, fainting, and heartbeat irregularities, get emergency medical help. Do not try to self-diagnose hypertension or other heart problems and do not self-prescribe valsartan or its analogues to treat any medical conditions without seeking your doctor’s advice first.
The risks associated with valsartan misuse
All valsartan-using patients should learn all about the possible dangers associated with the incorrect or irresponsible use of this medication. If the medication is not used exactly as told to by your prescribing doctor, valsartan may cause several adverse side effects and even endanger your life.
The risk of developing adverse side effects
While certain mild side effects like headache, weariness, dizziness, stomachache, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, and pain in the back and joints are possible in patients who take valsartan in strict adherence to the doctor’s recommendations, they do not usually pose any risk to the person’s health. Adverse side effects might occur in patients who misuse the medication, particularly exceed the prescribed dosage, increase the recommended frequency of drug intakes, or take the medication at different times of the day, thus, violating the approved dose-timing schedule.
Such adverse events may include:
- severe dizziness and fainting;
- acute pain in the chest;
- heart palpitations;
- numbness or tingling sensations in the hands, feet, and lips;
- respiratory difficulty and breathlessness;
- mental confusion;
- difficult urination or bloody urine.
This is not an exhaustive list of possible adverse effects resulting from the misuse of valsartan. If you are experiencing any uncommon, painful, or worrying symptoms after the use of this medicine, get immediate medical assistance.
The risk of adverse drug interactions
There is a wide range of prescription and OTC medicinal products and supplements that should never be co-administered with valsartan for fear of adverse reactions. Thus, valsartan is known to interact very unsafely with:
- certain potassium-sparing diuretics, salt substitutes, and other medicines like heparin that may elevate the levels of potassium;
- selective COX-2 inhibitors and other NSAIDs;
- lithium (some trustworthy online resources including nlm.nih.gov feature numerous research works exploring the harmful effects of such a drug combination);
- HIV/AIDS antiretroviral drugs.
Always tell your doctor about any medicinal and herbal drugs, supplements, and vitamins that you are taking before he or she prescribes you with valsartan to eliminate the possibility of unwanted drug interactions that may be dangerous for your life. When undergoing a treatment course with valsartan, do not start using any new medications, herbal drugs, or supplements for any health problem without consulting your prescribing physician first.
The risk of interrupted pregnancy and fetal damage
The FDA’s warning on the label indicates that pregnant women and women who suspect they might be pregnant should not use valsartan to treat their hypertension and other medical conditions for which this drug is indicated. The use of this medication poses unacceptable health risks to the developing fetus, including fetal death in utero. Women who learn about their pregnancy while using valsartan should discontinue the medication immediately and contact their doctor for recommendations on alternative drug treatment options.
The risk of overdose and abuse
While valsartan abuse is improbable due to the lack of any habit-forming potential, the risk of overdose is high if this blood pressure-regulating drug is not taken in strict accordance with the doctor’s guidelines. The most common reason for valsartan overdose is the patient’s inability to adhere to the dosing regimen suggested by the doctor. People who often skip their drug administration time or use the medication irregularly are likely to accidentally take too much valsartan at some point. If you suspect you might have overdosed with this medication, call your doctor or seek emergency medical help.
The risk of cancer due to possible valsartan impurity
In 2018, some valsartan drugs were found to be contaminated with trace amounts of cancer-causing organic compound NDMA, which led to several companies voluntarily recalling batches of this medication off the shelves of pharmacies. Not all valsartan-based medications are tainted, and the use of some generic valsartan drugs is perfectly safe if the patient adheres to his doctor’s recommendations. Ask your prescribing physician where to buy your prescribed valsartan medicine to make sure it is safe, pure, and most effective.
Now that the safety of many popular ARBs, including some versions of valsartan, has been compromised by the possibility of NDMA-contamination, people whose everyday life and well-being depend on the uninterrupted use of blood pressure-regulating medications start looking for safer and equally suitable alternatives. Luckily, the choice is rich and varied. Depending on your particular treatment needs, your doctor may prescribe you with ACE inhibitors (captopril, benazepril, perindopril), beta-blockers (bisoprolol, nebivolol, atenolol), alpha-blockers (terazosin, doxazosin), diuretics (bumetanide, hydrochlorothiazide, metolazone), or calcium channel antagonist drugs (amlodipine, nisoldipine, and nicardipine). If your prescribing physician is sure that you benefit most from an ARB medication, he may switch you to another anti-hypertensive medicine of this class like losartan, olmesartan, or telmisartan. Do not change your valsartan medication at your sole discretion and without consulting your doctor first even if you think it is not suitable for you.