As various lots of blood pressure medication have been recalled, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is giving patients an odd suggestion: Go ahead, and take the pills that might contain a carcinogen — at least until new pills are available.
"Currently, valsartan products are in shortage, and we know that other types of products have the potential to fall into shortage soon," an FDA statement released Thursday says. "In anticipation, the agency is not objecting to temporary distribution of specific lots of losartan that contain impurities above the interim acceptable intake limit, for a short period of time."
Last summer, dozens of blood pressure medications were recalled because of trace amounts of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) or N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA). NDMA and NDEA are probable carcinogens, and the FDA has found levels of the impurities in three drugs: valsartan, irbesartan and losartan-containing products.
The FDA says its scientists do not think taking contaminated pills will have "a meaningful increased risk for cancer" over the time it's expected to replenish supply. They also stressed that discontinuing blood pressure medicine altogether could increase risk for other serious health problems, including stroke.
The recalled drugs are part of a large class called angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These drugs work by widening or relaxing blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure.
Jan. 23: Blood pressure medication recall over cancer risk expanded for more losartan drugs
Jan. 18: FDA: Another blood pressure drug, irbesartan, recalled over cancer-causing impurity
Jan. 14: Blood pressure drug recall: FDA investigates foreign plants that made drugs with cancer-causing impurities
Jan. 7: More blood pressure medication recalled over carcinogen concerns — this time, losartan
Jan. 2: More blood pressure medication recalled: Company recalls 80 lots of valsartan over cancer concerns
Dec. 6: Three more blood pressure drugs recalled over cancer concern: Here's what you need to know
Nov. 30: Doctors: Blood pressure drug substitutes are available for patients affected by recalls
Nov. 30: Two more blood pressure drugs recalled for potential cancer risk
Nov. 14: FDA chief: Blood pressure medicine recalls reflect increased scrutiny on drug safety
Nov. 13: FDA recalls another blood pressure drug for possible cancer risk
Nov. 2: Blood pressure drug recalled for possible cancer risk, FDA says
Aug. 7: FDA expands recall of heart drug for possible cancer-causing contamination