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FDA Concerned About Cancer Risks of Hypertension Drugs


The FDA announced yesterday, July 15, 2010, that a class of drugs known as ARBs (Angiotensin-receptor blockers) is being reviewed after a recent study found an increased risk of cancer associated with their use.

ARBs (Angiotensin-receptor blockers) are regularly prescribed for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage due to Diabetes) and congestive heart failure. Some of the more common brand names of ARBs include Diovan (valsartan), Cozaar (losartan), Avapro (irbesartan), Benicar (olmesartan) and Micardis (telmisartan).

The study cited by the FDA was conducted by a team of researchers, led by Dr. Ilke Sipahi, from the University Hospitals Case Western Medical Center in Cleveland. The team synthesized newly available data from other large scale clinical trials to look for a correlation between cancer development and the use of these drugs. The study concluded that “patients randomly assigned to receive ARBs had a significantly increased risk of new cancer occurrence compared with patients in control groups… Among specific solid organ cancers examined, only new lung-cancer occurrence was significantly higher…”[1] showing the possible cancer risk that could follow the use of this class of drugs.

The FDA plans to continue their review of these studies to determine additional information about any increased risks associated with the use of these medications.  They will release any additional information to the public as it becomes available.  At this time, they recommend that healthcare professionals and their patients continue to use these medications as their respective labels advise, but caution the community to stay alert to the possibility of the associated risks.  It is important that anyone using these medications continue with their use unless otherwise advised by their physician.

Healthcare professionals or patients taking these medications are encouraged to any report adverse events or side effects related to their use to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

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