Recall of Valsartan containing drugs

Valsartan a common heart disease drug is being recalled across Europe because it contains a chemical that has the potential to cause cancer

The recall and review were sparked after Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals - the company that supplies the active ingredient for some valsartan medicines - detected an impurity, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), in their product. For example, Swiss company Novartis informed the ministry that their products containing valsartan are not impacted because these products do not contain the ingredient from external suppliers. NDMA, an organic chemical produced as a byproduct of industrial processes, is classified as a group 2A "possible carcinogen", by the International Agency for Research on Cancer under the World Health Organization. They are also used by patients who have had heart failure or a recent heart attack.

She continues, explaining that patients should go to the pharmacy and see "if the drugs they're taking are indeed the affected, recalled valsartan products".

Drugs for high blood pressure sit on the shelf of a pharmacy in Seoul on Monday.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention said the recall is a precautionary measure following a report issued by the European Medicines Agency. The agency said it would evaluate the severity of the problem and the effects that the possible carcinogen might have on patients who are now taking drugs containing Valsartan.

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Several heart and high blood pressure drugs that contain valsartan are being recalled because of a substance that can cause cancer. Of 484,682 kilograms of Valsartan imported over the last three years, only 13,770 kilograms, or 2.8 percent contain ingredients from China.

Other medicines containing valsartan are not affected.

Sam Atkinson, director of the Inspection, Enforcement and Standards Division at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, advised: "People taking valsartan medication affected by this recall are advised to not stop taking their medication, but to speak to their doctor or healthcare professional who can advise on alternative treatment".

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